EAST ORANGE, NJ — Hundreds came to Calvary-Roseville United Methodist Church on Main Street in East Orange on Saturday, Dec. 17, to participate in the Joi’s Angels annual Holiday Party and Toy Giveaway, and despite the large number of attendees, Pastor Veronica Palmer said there was still room for more.
“Joi’s Angels is a community organization that does terrific work in the East Orange area and we have partnered with them. We had church on Sunday and afterward we had dinner for the congregation and anyone else that came out to the church,” Palmer said Monday, Dec. 19. “It was a good thing, because nothing went to waste. They ate all the food and we gave away all of the toys that we still had remaining from the day before, on Saturday. It was a blessing, all aMark ASmitround.”
According to Mark and Joyce Smith, founders of Joi’s Angels, spreading blessings around to those in need is what their organization is all about.
“I love East Orange; I love my city and it’s hard out here today, so what Joi’s Angels does is fill in the gaps — we fill in the gaps, so people can be able to afford their rent and afford to eat and the other things that need to be done, so we’re just grateful that God has given us an opportunity to supply all these different things, including the dance contest, the food and the toy giveaway, so they can come out here and have a good time,” Mark Smith said Saturday, Dec. 17.
“I want to thank Toys For Tots, the city of East Orange and everyone else that donated toys, food and anything else, helping make this event a success. And it’s also about bringing the community together. There’s nothing like bringing the community together because, believe it or not, we’re all family and, if you bring people together in the community, you’ll notice that they will learn to love one another, learn to get along with one another and learn to support one another,” he added.
Joyce Smith agreed with her husband.
“We’re an outreach ministry,” she said Saturday, Dec. 17. “Today, we’re giving the children a meal, some fun, some festivities, some dancing, some ministry and some toys. We do this for the community to give back.”
Capt. Bruce Davis of the East Orange Fire Department and Gary Myles of East Orange General Hospital volunteered to help Joi’s Angels with the annual holiday event.
“Anytime that there’s something to do with the community and especially the kids, you know Capt. Davis is going to be here, representing the East Orange Fire Department,” said Davis on Saturday, Dec. 17. “That’s what we do. We’re here for the kids. It’s all about them.”
Myles said they were also there “to make someone’s Christmas more merry, because the need is great.”
Palmer said the goal was to ensure that “no child was left behind for Christmas.”
“We want to let people know that we love them and we care about them, because there are a lot of people hurting right now,” said Myles on Saturday, Dec. 17. “We had a thousand people out here today and we want to let them know that there are still people out here that care. I’m glad that we met Joi’s Angels, because what we see them do in the community is just extraordinary.”
According to Theresa Combs, the president of the Magnificent Seven nonprofit organization and an assistant with Joi’s Angels, the Joi’s Angels mission isn’t confined to just one day each year during the holiday season, but the group spreads joy all year round.
“There’s a tremendous lot of services that Joi’s Angels also supplies, because they also have a food pantry as well,” said Combs on Saturday, Dec. 17. “It’s not just that they do this party once a year. It’s all year round. (Joyce Smith) is actually working 365 days a year. Any time you turn around, you will always see Joi’s Angels.”
According to Joyce Smith and Palmer, Joi’s Angels has a food pantry every third Thursday of the month, from 8 a.m. to noon at its headquarters at 114 South Arlington Ave. in East Orange. And Calvary-Roseville United Methodist Church has a food pantry every fourth Thursday of the month, from 9 a.m. to noon at the church at 400 Main St.
“We also have a food pantry; we piggyback,” Palmer said Saturday, Dec. 17. “Together, we work to build harmony and feed the community. So we don’t have things at the same time. We do it at separate times so that the community will benefit.”
East Orange Recreation Department Director Osner Charles, who attended the Joi’s Angels event last week said, “Joi’s Angels, Passion for Purpose, and everyone that was involved in today’s event, they embody urban excellence. They deserve more than just awards. They deserve to someday have statues in the community for the work that they do in the community.”
Palmer agreed with Charles, but said it’s all a labor of love.
“The kids will receive all these gifts, but we must remember that this season, this time of year, it’s not just only giving toys,” said Palmer.