EAST ORANGE, NJ — Akeem Cunningham may be best known as both a former captain of the East Orange Campus High School’s last football team to win a state championship and as the founder of Akeem Cares, a non-profit organization that hosts annual parties for single mothers in East Orange and helps find jobs for young people. Cunningham is also one of the founding members of the Young Professionals of East Orange nonprofit organization, but it will be in his role as an East Orange firefighter that he will host the first Bridging the Gap party Thursday, April 12, from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Taste restaurant in Newark.
“This party is a celebration for the entire Fire Department showing unity,” said Cunningham on Tuesday, March 27. “It’s about us celebrating our own moving up through hard work and dedication. As a young guy in the department, I’m blessed to be able to work with the amazing senior men on this job, as well as a group of young men who are striving to keep the legacy of (the East Orange fire Division) alive under our new chief.”
East Orange Fire Chief Andre Williams agreed the party celebrates department unity.
“This party is a long overdue celebration of professional accomplishments for some very amazing men,” said Williams on Tuesday, April 10. “The energy surrounding this party has everyone from the veterans to the probationary firefighters very excited. There’s never been a departmentwide party like this, so it’s something we decided to do to strengthen our unity. Actually, we have most of the other city employees attending the party as well, so it’s going to be a true citywide event.”
Mayor Ted Green’s made good on a promise to make public safety a top priority in his new administration by introducing 25 new probationary firefighters, and 50 new police recruits at his inauguration on Monday, Jan. 1. Both Williams and Cunningham said they are glad to have more help to serve and protect East Orange.
Williams said the 25 new probationary firefighters Green introduced are fortunate to have come on the job at the right time.
“All of our firefighters are all East Orange residents and they have started their careers with the department,” said Williams on Tuesday, April 10. “They all graduated the academy and they’re doing an excellent job so far. They have good timing, because there were no parties before, not like this for the whole department. It’s special under the new mayor, Ted Green, who is promoting one community with one goal of progress and this is a part of that.”