ORANGE, NJ — The Orange Fire Department’s 10th annual Thanksgiving Community Dinner at the Chief Martin DeMarzo Fire Headquarters on Thursday, Nov. 26, was a family event in every sense. Firefighters attended with their immediate families and their extended department family, as well as the extended family of the Orange Township community they serve throughout the year.
According to Firefighter Dee Brown, serving the public a good, hot holiday meal was in keeping with the original goal he, DeMarzo and the rest of the Irvington Fire Department established a decade ago, when they first opened their firehouse doors to feed the public on Thanksgiving. He said it’s always been a family-inspired and -oriented event.
“My name is Anne Brown and my son is Derrick Brown, who is a firefighter here,” said Dee Brown’s mother on Thursday, Nov. 26. “Derrick started this program years ago in 2006, when my other son, Donald Brown, died. Derrick wanted to do something to help the homeless and people like that, so he wanted to start this program in honor of his brother. It’s a good thing, because so many people out here are hungry and it’s a good thing to feed them.”
Anne Brown said she was at the firehouse the previous night, cutting up turkeys in preparation for the event, adding they had about 20 turkeys that needed to be sliced into proper serving size and, as a result, she was tired at the firehouse dinner giveaway.
But that didn’t stop her or her grandson, King Timothy Tut, 7, from doing all they could to make the event a success. In fact, the Orange public schools were well-represented at the dinner and giveaway, with teachers, student athletes from the girls soccer and softball teams, and others who came out to give back to their community by helping the Orange Fire Department feed the needy and hungry on Thanksgiving Day.
“I had fun being out here today, because I like being with my family,” said the boy on Thursday, Nov. 26.
Dee Brown said that’s what the annual community is all about. He said the outpouring of civic pride and the spirit of community service that filled the air on Thanksgiving would have made his brother and DeMarzo proud.
“This was started back in 2005 and, 10 years later, everything’s going good,” he said Thursday, Nov. 26. “It’s growing and ever-evolving. We’re always trying to reach new people that need. Today we had a great attendance by a lot of people. It was a good Thanksgiving in 2015.”
Dee Brown said he was “so happy for all the members of the Orange Fire Department, all the volunteers that came out and supported the Orange Fire Department and all people that donated food and their own necessary and unused items that we had to use today,” adding it “was a great day for us.”
“This is built upon the premise of those that don’t have a place to go,” said the firefighter. “I had a home and I have a home. But in 2005, in October, my brother passed away and I needed something to do and what was born was Thanksgiving. And Marty (DeMarzo) blessed me with the opportunity to have Thanksgiving here in the firehouse. That year, we served 125 people. Today, we gave out over 600 meals, 10 years later.”
Dee Brown said the Thanksgiving community dinner is all about “reaching out to those that don’t have a place to be and the firehouse is their home on Thanksgiving Day to get a hot meal.”
Acting fire Chief James Rothenberger said he is proud of the local holiday tradition and the way Capt. Jamie Anderson and the other firefighters in the department have taken up a mantle of service and kept it alive.
“Chief DeMarzo preached giving back to the community that pays our salaries and Derrick Brown was one of the main guys that started it and now Capt. Jamie Anderson is involved, Firefighter Leonard Stewart, along with the rest of the Fire Department volunteer to help during the week and leading up to this you have a lot of support from the guys and from the townspeople we get donations and everything and as you see people come and turnout,” said Rothenberger on Thursday, Nov. 26.
“It’s important because people need to know they can come here if they need something. It’s important to show support for the people that are less privileged.
I’m born and raised in this town. My family’s in this community over 50 years. My father just passed away; he was 82 and lived in Orange all his life. And it’s important to give back to the community. We want people to know that we’re here. I’ve got a very big family and today I had about 20 people from my family here, because they understand how important this is not just to me, but they see it; they think it’s important.
“We had council people here; we had police officers show up,” said Rothenberger. “Everybody gets involved to help.
And it’s important to bring the kids here to see that, no matter how bad we may be struggling or some people may be struggling, there’s always somebody less fortunate.
“Appreciate what you have. That’s what Thanksgiving is all about.”