MONTCLAIR, NJ - For the past 22 years, local Montclair residents have prepared and served nearly 5000 meals on Thanksgiving to Montclair-area seniors.
Spearheaded by Greg Whitaker and Wally Choice, Jr. of Montclair, the two began serving meals each year after returning from the Million Man March on Washington, D.C. back in 1995.
On Friday November 17, men from the Million Man March chapter of Montclair, Celine Choice and the senior citizens of the Do Drop-in, began preparation of over 50 crates of collard greens for the annual Thanksgiving dinner.
Since 1996, this organization has provided meals throughout the Essex County area to those that would like a meal on Thanksgiving Day. Through a coordination of community partnerships with churches, non-profits and volunteers, this annual Thanksgiving Day of giving has served nearly 5000 meals to date, with an expected 800 to be served and delivered this year.
Whitaker had this to say, "Upon returning back from the march, there were a number of things that the group decided we needed to do to to validate going to the march and being called out to be better men, father's, husbands and better citizens. ..and so we [figured we] all had things to do. I took this as my charge."
Preparation and distribution will be held at several locations throughout the Fourth Ward of Montclair. Trinity Church, Wally Choice Community Center and First House Montclair senior citizen's building.
Those wishing to have a sit down meal are invited to attend First House Montclair where meals will be provided.
"We look forward to serving all that are interested in attending, as it's open to anyone that is looking to share in a meal on that day, meet, chat, eat and provide a safe atmosphere for those to meet, greet and socialize and receive help or information beyond the Thanksgiving meal," said Gail Dunn of MNDC.
Bruce Taylor of Montclair, has been a volunteer for the past 5 years. He said, "Greg came and asked if I would help out in cooking and in preparing the meals. It's important to me to be able to, not only give back, but to do what we can in supporting our community, our seniors, sick and shut-in or anyone that would like a meal on that day. It's about giving."
For those who are interested in volunteering, organizers say that they can come to the Wally Choice Community Center on Thursday morning, November 23, which is Thanksgiving Day. At 9am, volunteers will be able to assist in packing, distribution and coordination for drop-off locations.