IRVINGTON, NJ — Omar Bilal Beasley and the members of Garden State Greater Grand Lodge Freemasons hosted the annual Farmer’s Market pre-Thanksgiving Vegetable Giveaway at the lodge on Sanford Avenue on Tuesday, Nov. 21.
The vegetables were once again provided by the Essex County Department of Health and Human Affairs and Senior Services, but the volunteers who helped distribute them came from all walks of life.
“I live up here around the corner. I’m one of the boys. I’ve been in the desert with the boys,” said Pastor Robert Morast of St. Peter’s Baptist Church in Newark, a freemason, on Tuesday, Nov. 21. “People are hungry, so we are feeding them in the ghettos. That’s the right thing to do. That’s what Jesus did. He took two little fish and five loaves and fed 5,000-plus, so we’re trying to get close to what he did.”
Morast said the key to the Freemasons’ community service in general — and the annual vegetable giveaway in particular — is the creed encouraging people to always do what they can for others and their community with whatever means available.
“I’m just a local pastor in Newark and, wherever there’s a need, I try to fill that need. We’re not prejudiced. Whoever’s hungry, we feed them. If a cat’s hungry or a dog is hungry or even a squirrel or a mouse, we feed them. Not volunteering with the mice, but we feed them,” Morast said.
With that in mind, Morast said Beasley and the other local freemasons and county employees who participated in the giveaway were “doing a great job out here” and he “just stopped by to encourage them.”
Beasley echoed Morast’s sentiments, adding that the freemason tradition of giving and community outreach around Thanksgiving is an extension of the family values he learned from his father, D. Bilal Beasley, a former Irvington Municipal Council president and county freeholder.
“I come from a family of community activists. My father, he was very, very instrumental and he said that ‘We all come from different backgrounds, but we all come from the stem of the same tree,’ so this is what we do and, as long as I’m alive, this is in my blood,” said Beasley on Tuesday, Nov. 21.
“What we do is our annual farmers market, where we team up with the Senior Services of Essex County, led by the County Executive Mr. Joseph DiVincenzo, and we give out fruits and vegetables to the seniors and those who live in the Essex County area. It’s the season of giving and we know that, with the economy being the way it is and some people living one paycheck away from disaster, it’s always good that you’re able to give to those in need and make their holiday special. Every year, it gets bigger and bigger and we’re able to facilitate and take care of everyone and, hopefully, this year, it will be the same.”
Volunteers Deacon Raymond Meeks of Greater Bethel Baptist Church, along with his wife, Irene, and Johnnie McCrorey, said they came to assist at the giveaway in order to help serve the community and those in need.
“We’re here helping to serve veggies to the community and needy families,” said McCrorey on Tuesday, Nov. 21. “We volunteered. We want to help.”
Barbara Tazwell of Abyssinia Baptist Church said she volunteered to come out and help people such as Dee Covington, who picked up two big bags filled with vegetables for the same reasons.
“I got the vegetables and I’m going to share,” said Covington, a member of Morast’s church.
According to Deacon Jack Kemp from Abyssinia Baptist Church, Covington’s vow to share what she was given fits nicely with the overall ethos of the giveaway event.
“We have a food pantry at our church, but this is separate from that, (so) we volunteer to work here also,” said Kemp on Tuesday, Nov. 21. “That’s what we’re on: meeting the needs of the people, wherever they are. If we can help then, we’re there.”