PATERSON, NJ- While there were many efforts to help feed those in need throughout the Paterson community for Thanksgiving, one of the longest running is the City of Paterson’s Thanksgiving dinner. This year marked the 34th local leaders and volunteers welcomed residents into the historic Integrity Masonic Temple in the city’s Fourth Ward.

In addition to the full meal, those in attendance also received care packages with volunteers and organizations donating a variety of clothing, food and toiletries. Perhaps most importantly, all were greeted with warm welcomes from local leaders including Mayor Jane Williams-Warren, City Council President Ruby Cotton, Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-9), and Board of Education Commissioner Dr. Jonathan Hodges.

DJ Ray Boogie provided music and entertainment to the festive celebration.

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Williams-Warren offered appreciation to the volunteers who made the day possible and encouragement to the attendees saying “don’t just be thankful on the holiday,” instead, by being part of the community and working together “Paterson can show its support to the people that live here by giving back.”

Asked about the significance of not just the event itself but also the opportunity for guests to have a chance to interact with elected officials and other leaders Cotton said that it’s “important that all people feel included.” Dr. Lillisa Mimms added that the event reflects a theme she has carried with her as a member of the Paterson Board of Education, and now as her campaign for City Council advances that “we are better together.”

Hodges, volunteering for his twentieth time added simply that “it is always such a beautiful event.”

Several organizations such as “Paterson Cares”, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and Save the Village also participated in the event through donations and volunteers. 

Tracy Gilmore of Murture Sisters, a group that helps men and women fighting substance abuse offered a wider view of the support that was being provided that day by saying that their group’s work to help does not end on Thanksgiving. Rather, through efforts such as the rental of shower stalls so that homeless residents can bathe is a reflection of their goal of “fulfilling God’s purpose” year round. 

Though Gilmore recognized that they can’t “save every soul,” she took some rightful pride in their accomplishments which include being a part of the dinner, the showers, and also helping many who have sought Muture’s support for substance abuse issues and are now “in the recovery stages.”

Saying that he found great reward in helping those who he knew would cherish the clothes he had donated for the day one volunteer, Tremain Major, said that he “rushed from (his) home just to take the opportunity to give back to Paterson.”

For Paterson Fire Captain Alton Dickson, President of the Bronze Heat, the importance of individual giving comes down to “if not you, then who?” For those that continue to put off volunteering for their community he asks “if not now, when?” It’s never too late to get involved, Dickson said. Reflecting on the many guests that had been served at the Masonic Temple he added “this is a great place to start.”