PATERSON, NJ - The NFL playoff games played in the bar just yards away, but the real road to glory Sunday was through the ballroom of Integrity Lodge on Broadway.

Eight teams, representing each of the Lodges in the Seventh Masonic District prepared, presented, and served a total of 24 dishes, ranging from meat to starch to vegetables, the nearly 200 guests casting votes for their favorites in each of the categories.

The brainchild of Donnell Isaac, the sixth annual fundraising event helps support the organization’s many community-oriented efforts, including toys for tots, backpack and school supply drives, voter registration outreach, anti-violence programming, and prostate cancer awareness.

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“We are competitive by nature,” Perno W. Young III, District Deputy Grandmaster, said with a smile. “We also like to eat, whether it be tailgating or socializing, it’s what we do,” he added before saying through food they show their “brotherly love.”

For Jeffrey Cordell Spann, the Grand Master of the M.W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge that oversees the Masons across New Jersey, it is through a “TEAM” approach that his members meet the organization’s tenets of charity, brotherly love, and relief. “Together everyone achieves more,” he told TAPinto Paterson. 

“We always look to bring people together for a good cause.”

While the promised fun family atmosphere was on full display, and guests continued to enjoy the cooking, Young offered a reminder that a much deeper goal was being achieved inside the hall. Many of the urban environments where the Masons have established outposts and were once thriving are no “in economic despair, facing societal ills,” he said.

“Instead of running away we are embracing those challenges, working towards the rebuilding and revitalization of a community.”

It was that commitment to bringing lasting change to a struggling neighborhood that had Fourth Ward Councilwoman Ruby Cotton praising the work of the Integrity Lodge. “They have been taking care of people for a long time, I support everything they do,” Cotton said. The lodge, she said, not only opens their doors every year for the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals she hosts, Masons also help to fill the ranks of volunteers to feed the hundreds of residents that pass through. 

The tasting and voting over it was time to announce the winners, with awards going to Bayonne’s Omega Lodge 64 for their sweet potato casserole, the host lodge taking the prize for best vegetable with their string beans, and the most coveted best meat winner being announced as Shiloh Lodge out of Engelwood who tickled the taste buds of every attendee with their spare ribs.

With winners all posing for photos Kevin Price, Worshipful Master of the host Integrity Lodge, turned to TAPinto Paterson and said the trophies each would go home with weren’t the real prize, instead it’s the “bragging rights” that they will carry with them until the 2021 Brothers that Burn event that hold the real value.

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