Orange Fire Department hosts Thanksgiving Community Dinner

Photo by Chris Sykes
A young volunteer, left, serves dinner to a little girl, right, who was one of the many city residents who came out to the Orange Fire Department’s annual Thanksgiving Community Dinner at the Chief Martin DeMarzo Fire Headquarters on Lincoln Avenue on Thursday, Nov. 22.

ORANGE, NJ — The Orange Fire Department hosted its 13th annual Thanksgiving Community Dinner at the Chief Martin DeMarzo Fire House on Lincoln Avenue on Thanksgiving Day and it was a real family event.

“It’s always a good time. It does a person’s heart good,” said Orange fire Capt. Jamie Anderson on Thursday, Nov. 22. “We like having the kids here. Doing it helps build character. A lot of parents bring their kids when they’re small. I mean really small. They bring their kids so they participate and show that there’s some less fortunate than them and that’s how you grow up and you appreciate the things you achieve in life, instead of thinking that somebody should give you things all the time. You learn that life is earned. Your life is earned. You don’t prosper all the time by people just giving you things. Your goal should be to reach your goal and do for yourself and then do for others, to help them get up there. Each one, teach one and reach one. That’s how it should be.”

The extended family to which Anderson referred includes the Orange School District, which was represented at the dinner by Orange High School’s athletic director, Mohammed Abdul Aziz, and girls soccer and volleyball head coach, Peter Naumowicz, several players from both teams and members of the school’s football team.

“We have soccer players, football players, a couple different athletes here from Orange High School,” said Naumowicz on Thursday, Nov. 22. “It’s all our Orange High School students coming to give back to the community. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope everyone stays safe, healthy and happy.”

The long-running charity event was rebranded as the annual Gift to Give Thanksgiving Feast almost five years ago, when Mayor Dwayne Warren was elected and appointed Kenneth Douglas as fire director. Since then, it has grown and attracted several black fraternal organizations, which volunteer to help firefighters and their families feed the hungry and needy on Thanksgiving.

“These are partners for this event,” said Douglas on Thursday, Nov. 22. “We would like the assistance of any fraternity or sorority organization to come out and help with this effort. I appreciate their time, every time they come here.”

Members of black fraternities and sororities, including Omega Psi Phi, Phi Beta Sigma, Alpha Phi Alpha, Iota Phi Theta, Alpha Kappa Alpha and Zeta Phi Beta, volunteered again this year.

“We’re just out here, servicing the community, giving back. We have all of these fraternities and sororities out here, showing love,” said Tyrone Day, president of the Newark Greek Council, on Thursday, Nov. 22. “It’s just a blessing that we can come back to these different areas in the city of Orange, or the City of Newark, Irvington, and just practice what we’re all here for, which is service. So we appreciate Orange Fire Department for letting us come and do this.”

Warren is also a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, strengthening its connection with Orange.

“We have to think of ourselves as one family and, certainly, when we ache, they ache and, when it’s time for bounty over there, it’s time for bounty over here,” said Warren on Thursday, Nov. 22. “So it’s really about shared experience, but it’s all really about fellowship today, here in our community. This is a decades-long effort. We’re going to continue it going forward and we welcome everyone to come and serve. Fraternities and sororities are part of service. That’s what we learn, that’s what we do and we carry it over into our daily lives. Our doors have always been open to those who want to be servant leaders, for those who want to get involved in the community, so this is just another indication of how we all come together, to make sure our community benefits in the end.”

Orange City Council was also represented at the event by Council President and East Ward Councilman Kerry Coley and at large Councilman Chris Jackson. East Orange 3rd Ward Councilman Bergson Leneus also stopped by after he and Councilwoman Quilla Talmadge hosted their own Thanksgiving Community Giveback Free Holiday Meal earlier that day at the 3rd Ward Community Center on Rhode Island Avenue.

“We’re just here giving thanks, just for the little bit that we have,” said Coley on Thursday, Nov. 22. “Our Fire Department has once again put on a great dinner for a lot of people in the community that need a helping hand just for today. As you can see, looking around, it’s a great turnout. In addition to the meals that the Fire Department has served, the red bags right there on the table are stuffed with groceries from our new Save-A-Lot supermarket. They opened up and they are embracing the community and this is a great way for them to give back to the Orange community by giving 100 bags of groceries to Orange families.”

Jackson agreed with Coley that the annual Thanksgiving event has become the featured attraction on the city’s holiday season schedule and serves as the unofficial kickoff.

“We’re just trying to share some of the prosperity we have in Orange with those who would like to come and join us,” said Jackson on Thursday, Nov. 22. “It’s a wonderful day today. It’s a bright, sunny day inside and outside this building. If you’re going to be here in Orange, then you’re part of the community and this is a manifestation of that interest.”

Orange fire Capt. Derrick Brown agreed that the annual Thanksgiving event has grown since he and his brother firefighters started it in 2005, but said it is still the same beautifully simple memorial to family, community and public service that they set out to create 13 years ago.

“It’s a big day since 2005. Oct. 5, the passing of my brother the week before Thanksgiving, this is when it was born in 2005,” said Brown on Thursday, Nov. 22. “The Orange Fire Department put this together. This is something that I started, spearheaded. Today, the members of the Orange Fire Department put together a great event for the community. The less fortunate in Orange that don’t have a place to go to have a meal, they can come here to our home and eat with us and have Thanksgiving with us.”

Brown said he and all Orange firefighters have been “blessed to have an awesome Thanksgiving and we’ve been blessed by the Fire Department to have an awesome life.” He said, when you think about it that way, then it’s easy to understand why they don’t hesitate to give back to the community that has given them so much.

“The give back is giving back to those that don’t have. So today we’ve served. The relationships that we, the members of the Orange Fire Department, have formed with the community — getting donations, people preparing meals — this is what we have today,” said Brown. “I’m pretty sure … we’ve served at least 600 meals today, so it’s been another success for us and just giving back. I just want to say thank you to all that participated and donated. I want to thank all my brothers and sisters here at the Orange Fire Department for standing behind us and making sure that this is another success.”

“It’s about donating. It’s about giving back. Those could come here and cheer and chant, but the main thing is: did you give back?” asked Brown. “You don’t cheer when you’re giving back. Giving back is what you’re supposed to do. I have it all, so we’re supposed to share what we have.”