EAST ORANGE, NJ — Lending a helping hand and spreading seasonal warmth to the East Orange senior community this Thanksgiving season was the Division of Senior Services, which hosted its pre-Thanksgiving luncheon with East Orange Mayor Ted Green and the East Orange City Council. The annual event, which has been held for more than 15 years, took place at the East Orange Senior Center on Nov. 22.
Restricted to East Orange seniors with proof of COVID-19 vaccination, the event featured Thanksgiving favorites such as turkey with gravy, yams, yellow rice, green beans and dinner rolls, with homemade marble cake for dessert. It was sponsored by the Division of Health and Human Services under the direction of the Division of Senior Services.
According to East Orange public information officer Connie Jackson, there was a large turnout, with many seniors taking advantage of the free transportation to the event, which was available upon request. Enjoying a warm meal and festive activities with neighbors, the seniors had a great time.
“Approximately 100 senior residents were served by volunteers, including Mayor Ted Green, 2nd Ward Councilman Christopher Awe and staff from the Division of Senior Services,” Jackson told the Record-Transcript on Nov. 29. “The atmosphere of the luncheon was filled with gratitude and service. The volunteers danced to the music as they carried trays filled with dinner plates to each table to serve the senior residents. Seniors enjoyed banter with one another while swaying in their seats to the DJ’s tunes.
“Mayor Green walked around with the microphone and asked several seniors to describe what they were thankful for this season,” she continued. “The seniors answered emphatically and were met with cheers and sounds of praise with each response. While dessert was served, recreation leader Rick Clark began to sing a crowd favorite, which beckoned Mayor Green, volunteers and seniors to the dance floor, while others stood at their tables dancing and waving their hands in praise.”
Urging residents to celebrate the holiday together, Green helped foster an atmosphere of giving and community.
“This event was not only a success, it was necessary. Our seniors had such a wonderful time bonding and bringing in the holiday season with grateful hearts. I want East Orange residents to remember that we are one city, one community with one goal, and that goal equals progress,” Green told the Record-Transcript on Nov. 29.
Awe mentioned how glad he was to be a part of something that brought a great deal of seasonal joy to seniors.
“The seniors are important to all of us,” Awe told the Record-Transcript on Nov. 29. “The cool thing about it for me was a lot of those seniors that were there played roles. Some of those seniors saw me grow up, some of those seniors I’ve interacted with them in this role and in this community, so it was a supportive role to the mayor and the administration. Our mantra is one community, one goal equals progress, and we practice that.
“For me, in particular, it was a blessing to participate in the luncheon,” he continued. “I think when you’re serving the public, you being among the public is always the thing you get used to, but, at this particular luncheon, it took on a different tone. This was the first time the seniors have been together since the pandemic, so that was a blessing in itself for all of them to be together and be able to socialize. We had a portion of the event where we’re serving and people were eating, the mayor and I had a great idea to kind of give people the opportunity to speak and say what they’re thankful for. To hear the seniors give reasons as to why they’re thankful — obviously for their life and health and the people they’ve lost. It was all so moving.
“For me to hear those things was definitely a blessing. We were there to serve and honor our seniors, but, in a way, I was able to take something away from it as well, so that was pretty cool.”
Photos Courtesy of East Orange City Hall