PATERSON, NJ- With organizations such as St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Humble Beginnings, and Oasis- A Haven for Women and Children collectively serving more than 1,500 meals, and countless other efforts, including one by the members of IBEW 827, to distribute turkeys and other meal kits to thousands residents in need over past days, the generosity that embodies Paterson has shone through this Thanksgiving season.
Among all of these, however, it was perhaps the City of Paterson’s 35th Annual Thanksgiving Dinner that best reflected the spirit of giving that truly symbolizes what Paterson is about. Launched by former councilwoman and community service legend Vera Ames, the event, held again on Thursday at the Masonic Temple, is a community staple and the longest running activity bringing service organizations, community leaders, residents, elected officials, other volunteers, and of course residents, together on Thanksgiving.
Giving a constant nod to Ames’ legendary efforts to launch and continue the meal service for decades, Councilwoman Ruby Cotton is now firmly embedded at the helm of the effort that was started by a group of friends cooking and serving others. On Thursday, Cotton moved swiftly between the kitchen and dining areas sharing not only meals but also her regular dose of positive vibes.
“This event is not only about serving those in need but it is about everyone in the community coming together”, Cotton told TAPinto Paterson.
Cotton reflected on her 40 plus year friendship with Ames, recalling the time she lost a city council election to her in the late 80s. Rather than showing anger or becoming distant from the community she served, she embraced Ames and her service, and still does today. The mutual respect between two powerful women, Cotton recalled, led Ames to encourage her one time rival to seek the seat that she had retired from. Ames knew, Cotton said, that they shared the same love of the community.
“One has to be a person of the community before one becomes a councilperson”, mused Cotton, further expressing how she loves being of service to her community, whether it is to her children as a football mom or by keeping an eye on and supporting the community at events like the annual Thanksgiving feast.
Cotton showed particular gratitude for the efforts of the young volunteers, like those from Greek organizations such as Lambda Theta Alpha Sorority, Chi Upsilon Sigma, and Omega Phi Psi. “We do this event to both serve parents and their children but to also show our youth to be of service,” proclaimed Cotton.
Along with being served a home cooked and delicious meal, attendees, including many elderly and disabled, received care packages which included a variety of clothing, food, and toiletries donated by several supporting organizations including Paterson CARES, the Bronze Heat, and Save the Village.
Perhaps more importantly, all were greeted with warm welcomes and supportive embraces from local leaders including Mayor Andre Sayegh, City Council President Maritza Davila, Councilman Luis Velez, and Councilwoman Dr. Lilisa Mimms who also offered a special blessing for all in attendance as well as the food that was served.
“This is not just a day to be thankful but also to give back,” Sayegh said about the importance of lending a hand to those in need.
“These event are important for people during the holidays when they may find themselves feeling along,” Loraine Collins, When Poetry Heals, a suicide prevention focused organization said when asked how, besides simply providing them a meal, she believes events like these help local residents.
Before heading back in to the kitchen Cotton, seeming to reflect on the diversity of attendees, and large number of volunteers, said that “it’s important that all people feel included and that no one should pick and choose who they help.”
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