Orange Fire Department serves Thanksgiving dinner to the hungry

Photo by Chris Sykes
Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren, center rear, stands with members of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity and Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority who came out to volunteer at the Orange Fire Department’s annual Gift to Give Thanksgiving Community Dinner inside the Chief Martin DeMarzo Fire Headquarters on Central Avenue on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 23.

ORANGE, NJ — The Orange Fire Department hosted its annual Gift to Give Thanksgiving Feast at the Chief Martin DeMarzo Fire Headquarters on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 23, and members of the Orange community were invited to come to the “house” and share a meal with the “family.”

“We want to thank everyone for coming out to the Orange Fire Department’s Gift to Give 2017 Thanksgiving Feast,” said Orange Fire Director Kenneth Douglas on Thursday, Nov. 23. “This year, I know we fed over 600 people. I want to thank all of the organizations, all of the fraternities and sororities that came by, the Orange public schools, all city officials that came by and helped us feed the needy.”

Orange natives and Orange Fire Department veterans Capt. Jamie Anderson and Capt. Derrick Brown said the department’s annual event really has become a signature event on the city’s holiday season calendar, as DeMarzo always wanted it to be.

“We even had former council people and current City Council members that come every year — Councilman Elroy Corbitt, Councilwoman April Gaunt-Butler and the mayor,” said Anderson on Thursday, Nov. 23. “An hour before it ends, we still have people coming and we have churches that still serve also. That just lends itself to the fact that Orange is very giving, especially at this time of year.”

Brown started the Orange Fire Department tradition years ago, with support from DeMarzo, as a way to honor his brother’s untimely death, and he said it has become a life-affirming annual event.

“Once again, we’re serving the public,” said Brown on Thursday, Nov. 23. “The Orange Fire Department, we’re doing it again.”

Garry Terry is an East Orange native who came out to the event to partake of food, family and fellowship.

“This is every year. I don’t miss it,” said Terry on Thursday, Nov. 23. “To tell you the truth, I got here early this time. Last year, I blew it. The year before, I blew it, because I’ve been coming here like 2 o’clock, 2:30 p.m. It’s over with. So I’m here.”

Terry also added a little fuel to the ongoing longtime rivalry between sister cities Orange and East Orange by making a Thanksgiving Day comparison between the two cities.

“Put it this way: Orange does it better than East Orange, I can tell you that right now,” he said, despite the fact that East Orange had two separate Thanksgiving Day events going on at the 3rd Ward Community Center on Rhode Island Avenue and the YMCA on Arlington Avenue, in addition to the Orange Fire Department’s feast. “I’ve been in East Orange all my life. I stay in East Orange more than I do in Orange.”

Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren said it was no surprise representatives from “black frats” and sororities, including Omega Psi Phi, Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Beta Kappa Sigma and Phi Beta Sigma, were out in force on Thanksgiving.

“Kappa Alpha Psi is in the house. All of my junior fraternities are here,” said Warren on Thursday, Nov. 23. “Omega Psi, I don’t know what that is; AKA; Delta Kappas, too. Alpha Phi Theta was here. Phi Beta Sigma is here. They all look up to Kappa Alpha Psi.”

Several members of Omega Psi Phi disagreed with Warren about their admiration for him and his fellow Kappas, however; even though they agreed that “it’s all about service and helping the community.”

“We’re giving back to the community we’re just helping people in need,” said Denzel Clark, who pledged and graduated from Montclair State University. “We try to do the best we can, representing our fraternity. It’s all about giving back and helping the community.”

Muhammad Abdel-Aziz, the Orange High School vice principal and athletic director and OHS coach Peter Naumowicz agreed with Clark. Naumowicz and many of his players were at the fire department helping out and learning the importance of community service. He and Aziz said they do it because the lessons student athletes learn last for a lifetime.

“They’re giving back,” said Abdel-Aziz on Thursday, Nov. 23. “We have girls soccer, got some boys basketball players, mentor groups; cheerleaders, too. They’re all out here, just giving back to their community, and that’s what it’s always all about.”

Abdel-Aziz described Naumowicz as coach who “leads by example.” Naumowicz said he just wants to help his student athletes become the best people and players they can possibly be, and giving back to their community is a big part of that.

“We do everything we can, “ Naumowicz said. “Any way we can help the community, that’s what we do. … By showing up today, they’re learning to work for others, just like others work for them.”

To learn more about upcoming holiday season events and activities, call 973-266-4230.