EO YMCA hosts Thanksgiving Luncheon this year

Photo by Chris Sykes
Casim Gomez Jr., center, of the Young Professionals of East Orange group and two other volunteers display containers filled with the Thanksgiving dinner that Naimah Hall of the Passion For Purpose non-profit group and the East Orange Department of Recreation and Cultural Affairs served anyone in need and hungry who came to the YMCA on Thursday, Nov. 23.

EAST ORANGE, NJ — East Orange Mayor Lester Taylor and the Department of Recreation and Cultural Affairs joined forces with Naimah Hall and her Passion For Purpose nonprofit organization to host a Thanksgiving Luncheon at the East Orange YMCA on Thursday, Nov. 23.

“I have in my hand … a Thanksgiving meal. We have turkey, yams, mashed potatoes, string beans and stuffing. We home-cooked this meal for the community,” said Hall on Thursday, Nov. 23. “We have many people come and donate. We have churches that opened up and allowed us to use their kitchen. We have an organization called ‘PAC-tion’ that supported all the meals here. We do this. This is our third year. We do an event in Newark and we do it in East Orange.”

Hall is also a mother, so she was spending valuable family time serving the community with Passion For Purpose that she could have otherwise spent at home on Thanksgiving with her own family. But she said she tries to lead by example with her organization and her family.

“Yes, I should be home with my kids, but I teach my kids that you know you have to be able to give, in order to receive. That’s my goal and I’m showing my children that you have to be able to be a giver. I’m going home to cook after this also,” said Hall. “We started at 10 a.m. It’s over at 1. We’re here, we’re also doing deliveries, so even though people are coming in when we get phone calls, we also are going to people’s homes, we’re going to boarding homes and we are going to shelters to deliver. On Dec. 25, we will be at (the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey) Hospital in Newark, giving out toys to all the children in the hospital. Passion For Purpose is on Toys For Tots website. If your children need toys, please sign up, so we can donate you some toys.”

Last year, the Thanksgiving Luncheon was held at the Fellowship Civic Center, but this year, it was held at the YMCA, with support from the facility’s staff.

“I’m here with other employees and, at this time, we opened our doors for Passion For Purpose to give out Thanksgiving dinner to the community,” said YMCA assistant supervisor Adrienne McCall on Thursday, Nov. 23. “They’re giving out to Isaiah House, to people on the street. They went down to Newark Penn Station, so we’re here, helping them with the giveaways. Giving is a wonderful thing. That’s one thing it’s all about: giving back. That’s where you get your blessings. You help a person, you get it back tenfold.”

Charles is a member of the YMCA Board of Directors, so he said it made sense to host the Thanksgiving Luncheon in the Y building on North Arlington Avenue. He quoted legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, who said: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.”

“As a board member of the YMCA, we believe that our strength is in community,” said Charles on Thursday, Nov. 23, and again on Tuesday, Nov. 28. “The Y is community-centered, brings people together, nurtures potential and has local presence, which this community Thanksgiving Luncheon in partnership with Passion For Purpose embodies. On the other side of town, I would like to commend our Mayor-elect Ted Green, Councilwoman Quilla Talmadge and Councilman-elect Berg Leneus for hosting Thanksgiving Soup ‘Joumou’ for the community. Today, everyone who volunteered and gave back in this city and across the nation has paid their rent in full.”

Don Martin, a site supervisor at the YMCA, agreed with these sentiments. He and the other Y employees also had plenty of help from the Passion For Purpose volunteers who came to help at the Thanksgiving Luncheon and said they were grateful for the assistance.

“I just came to show love and support for our community,” said Martin on Thursday, Nov. 23. “I saw what we have going on here, so I wanted to come. I wanted to express some love.”

For more information about Passion For Purpose and upcoming charity events, such as the Toys For Tots Christmas giveaway, call Hall at 862-400-6655.