PATERSON, NJ – At 6:30 on Thanksgiving morning, April Clancy and Curley McDaniel were parked outside the Masonic Lodge, waiting to get inside. They knew the doors weren’t supposed to open until 7 am, but they were anxious to begin preparing the Thanksgiving meals for the needy. “I’ve been very blessed this year,’’ said Clancy. “This is something I can do to give back.’’

Clancy started by hauling boxes of food into the Mason Lodge kitchen. Then she chopped two grates of collard greens and 10 heads of cabbage. Finally, she prepared the potato salad.

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McDaniel was supposed to be doing the cooking, but ended up spending much of his time attending to the plumbing. “I come clean and leave dirty,’’ he said.

Clancy, McDaniel and other volunteers put their gratitude into action as part of what has become a holiday tradition in Paterson.  Several hundred people enjoyed a bountiful dinner of turkey, ham, and chicken, along with collard greens potato salad, and macaroni and cheese.

Former Councilwoman Vera Ames-Garnes, who helped start the holiday meals at the Masonic Lodge 29 years ago, takes pride in all the extra items that are provided, like the corn pudding made by City Council President Anthony Davis. “Other places don’t have the variety we have here,’’ said Ames-Garnes.

The Fourth Ward Alliance also offers folks take-out containers. “If you don’t eat enough while you’re here, take it with you,’’ said Ames-Garnes. “You can eat tomorrow, too.’’

Tom Fuscaldo has been helping out with the meals for all 29 years. “When we first started, Vera needed me bad,’’ Fuscaldo said. “Now, I’m in the way. We’ve got hundreds of volunteers.’’

Among them was Dangelo “Duke” Dangerfield. “This is something that makes you feel good doing it,’’ he said.

“What I like about this is that it teaches the young people about giving back,’’ said 4th Ward Councilwoman Ruby Cotton.

“What she said is right,’’ said Davis, who started volunteering for the Thanksgiving meals when he was a teenager.