PATERSON, NJ- More than 150 people turned out to the American Lodge 333/American Temple 258 on Sunday to raise funds for Rachel Martin, the mother of Shanaya Coley who has been missing since her presumed abduction on December 5, 2017.

Martin has been caring for Coley’s four-year old son since December, something community activist, and one of the event’s organizers, Valerie Freeman said is a “heavy responsibility.” The goal of the event, Freeman said, was to provide Martin with any support possible and to show that as a community, Paterson is “readily available” to help someone in need.

Asked about the decision to hold the event at the American Temple, ELKS Representative Antwan Wilson pointed to the sign that hangs out the door and explained the meaning behind it to TAPinto Paterson. Their threefold mission includes improving, serving and protecting the community, and, according to Wilson, they pride themselves on being the first call families in need make for assistance.

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For his part, Paterson Housing Authority Commissioner Bernard Jones, currently running for an At-Large seat on the Paterson City Council expressed that while the event was focused on supporting Coley’s family, he hoped that it would prove to be one of many opportunities to “bring organizations together to serve the community.” It was, he said “just the beginning” of efforts to put “community first.”

As the crowd continued to build and guests clamored to speak with Freeman she reminded TAPinto Paterson that while several candidates attended the event it was not a political one and shouldn’t be seen as an endorsement of any of them that may have been in attendance.

“Tonight,” Freeman said, “Shows that as a community we care, we are full of compassion.”