WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange Chamber of Commerce hosted its 2016 Annual Community Thanksgiving Luncheon at Mayfair Farms on Wednesday, where more than 100 members of the community mingled over food and drink. Guests participated in a 50/50 raffle with proceeds benefiting the West Orange Food Pantry at Holy Trinity and won door prizes.

Master of Ceremonies Ken Baris hosted the event and Township Councilwoman Susan McCartney, president of the Chamber, provided opening remarks while Mayor Robert Parisi offered welcome remarks. Guest speaker Monsignor Michael E. Kelly of Seton Hall Preparatory School also entertained the crowd.

Lions Club President Tim King, Rotary President Jeffrey Dunst and UNICO President Frank Paolercio also addressed the crowd and all carried a theme of gratitude.

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McCartney shared that although she was surprised and shocked about the results of the presidential election, she feels “determined and hopeful.” She also said that in line with Thanksgiving, the theme at her school, First Mountain Preschool, is “our many reasons to be grateful and the importance of love and cooperation.”

“These are basic human values," she said. "They don’t change. No matter what the month or season it is, or with election results. This annual luncheon is a testament to this,” referring to to the values being taught to her preschoolers.

She thanked the various township organizations and committee members in attendance, who she said are working together for the betterment of the community.

She also thanked the Horn family for hosting the event and for their 70 years of providing a historic setting at Mayfair Farms for thousands of events spanning many cultures and organizations.

"In the midst of our world about to change around us, let us continue to give thanks to those we have learned to rely on and depend on," she said. "Let us continue to grow and learn tolerance and acceptance--and most of all, continue to appreciate each other.”

After letting the crowd know that he just turned 50, Parisi nostalgically spoke of simpler times, where children didn’t have computers and cell phones and concluded with a message of gratitude.

He shared that some people in the audience’s parents drove cars with manual transmissions and leaded gas, while “our kids will know automobiles that will literally drive themselves.”

“Our parents had the Encyclopedia Britannica," he said. "Our kids have more information in those portable phones than you can fit in 1,000 Encyclopedia Britannicas.”

Parisi said that although he recognized the value of these advancements, he felt these advancements also had some downsides.

“Our children are growing up with the spoils of the 21st Century, but I am not sure they completely understand the struggles that were incurred to get here,” said Parisi.

He added that today’s kids can “communicate with dozens of people at once all over the world, "but said he felt this had “diminished the importance of a firm handshake and a warm smile.”

“Our kids are growing up in a world where they can post opinions in dozens of different forums blasted all over the world the moment the thought comes to their minds, but rather than uniting us, I can’t help but think that’s dividing us,” said Parisi. “Our kids have the world at their fingertips, literally and figuratively, but I don’t know if we have done enough to teach them the value of that. We have told them since they were young that the best things in life are free—the strength of family, the guidance of good friends, or a good meal surrounded by both.”

He concluded by saying that many of the guests' parents had nothing, but that they had gratitude.

"This Thanksgiving, be grateful," he said. "Not for the abundance, but for the quality of God’s blessings because everything else is just noise.”

Monsignor shared the story of the Good Samaritan, and left the crowd with a message for people to come together despite their differences. He also talked of forgiveness and self-giving.

All photos were provided by Jackie Schatell.