EAST ORANGE, NJ — The Salvation Army of the Oranges and Maplewood officially kicked off the holiday season by beginning its annual Red Kettle Fundraising Drive in the East Orange City Hall rotunda on Wednesday, Nov. 14, followed by the annual Pre-Thanksgiving Holiday Meal at the East Orange post’s headquarters at 430 Main St. on Sunday, Nov. 18.
“We are here this morning, as we are every year about this time, to do the kickoff for our kettle drive. The kettle drive is an annual event that takes place not only in the city of East Orange but throughout the United States,” said Goldie Burbage, a member of the Salvation Army’s board of directors, on Wednesday, Nov. 14. “As you can see, the kettle is here, so don’t pass by without dropping something in there. Something soft would be great; of course, if you have something that makes a little noise, that would be great as well.”
Burbage said the annual Pre-Thanksgiving is a team effort by the Salvation Army and the East Orange Fire Division.
“We have a Thanksgiving dinner the Sunday before Thanksgiving,” said Burbage. “The dinner is prepared by volunteers from all walks of life, some from East Orange, some from other towns, some from places not even in Essex County. They come, they give of their time, their energy, their effort and it’s a beautiful thing to see everybody working together to help those less fortunate.”
Burbage said that applies to EOFD firemen in particular.
“You should also know that, not only do we have the assistance from people from City Hall, but we also have the assistance of the firemen,” said Burbage. “They come for the Thanksgiving dinner. They take the turkeys that are donated, they cook the turkeys, they carve them and they serve them. So I think we need to have a round of applause for our firemen, who are so willing to give of themselves in their efforts for the city of East Orange.”
Although the Salvation Army is an international Christian evangelical movement and charity with a military structure that has corresponding ranks and hierarchy. Capt. Felix Torres is the commander of the East Orange Salvation Army post and was at the Red Kettle kickoff, along with one of his officers, Lt. Tharanza Elmonus.
“This is my second year here. I’m really happy to be here today,” said Torres on Wednesday, Nov. 14. “I just encourage everyone to let everyone know that, when you see that beautiful red kettle out there, just to support the Oranges and Maplewood Salvation Army. Once again, thank you for everything you guys do here as well and, if you need anything, you know where we at.”
Norma Mackey, a former city employee who Burbage described as a Salvation Army member for “many years,” also participated in the event.
“I’d like to say that it gives me great pleasure to be here to represent the Salvation Army and represent the community of East Orange in this timeless event,” said Mackey on Wednesday, Nov. 14. “There are many people who have little and who have none. We are truly blessed that we are able to give and share with others. May we continue to live the life that is a beacon for others. Have a wonderful holiday.”
Mayor Ted Green was unable to participate in this year’s Red Kettle Fundraiser kickoff because he was in Atlantic City at the annual League of Municipalities Conference, but his aide, Justin Brown, filled in for him.
“On behalf of our mayor, Ted R. Green, I just want to say ‘thank you’ to the Salvation Army, who makes it possible for different things to happen in the community, for families who are less fortunate,” said Brown on Wednesday, Nov. 14. “The Salvation Army is a part of what the mayor’s vision is, which is ‘One city one community one goal and it equals progress.’ The Salvation Army is part of that progress and we just want to say thank you for coming out here and being here with us at City Hall. And thank you to all the employees that did take their time out to come sit with the Salvation Army.”
The Red Kettle kickoff took place with the sounds of harps being played in the background by students Salmah Saleem, 17, and Savannah Jackson, 15, from the Cicely Tyson School of Fine and Performing Arts under the direction of Robbin Gordon Cartier. They played “Moonlight” by Susan McDonald and “Waking Early” by Stephen Dunston.
“You know, we always have entertainment on this occasion. We have again reached out to Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts. They have students who are so very, very talented, they make us so proud, whenever and wherever, and they travel everywhere. Robbin and her family have been residents in the city of East Orange for many, many years. As a matter of fact, I met them when I came here to the city of East Orange. We are so pleased and proud to have you and your students with us this morning,” Brown said.
Cartier and her students said they were glad to have been invited to perform at the kickoff event.
“It was our pleasure to be here to perform in support of such a worthy cause,” said Cartier on Wednesday, Nov. 14.
“As our first responders here in the city, it’s such a great thing that they have been doing,” said Green on Sunday, Nov. 18. “People are seeing across the board that our firefighters and police officers are people and they care about giving back. They care about making sure that, on Thanksgiving, other people have a chance to eat.”
Green said giving back to the community and the city is what it’s about and he’s “glad and proud to have them working on my watch as mayor.”
“If I’m going to eat on Thanksgiving, then I’m going to make sure that other people eat, too,” said Green. “We’re giving out 500 turkeys this year, starting on Monday, Nov. 19. We have the schools and churches identify children and families in need and we’re going to help them out for the holidays. We’re changing the face of what government is and, thanks to the support and partnership with organizations like the Salvation Army and people like Goldie Burbage, we’re providing the services and we’re providing the help.”