Dozens of county residents gave their time and energy on Thanksgiving Eve and Day to make sure everyone who wanted a bountiful meal could get it on one of the most important of annual holidays.
Whether it was at the PERC homeless shelter in Union City, or the Woodcliff church in North Bergen, anyone who wanted a warm meal could get one if they were able to get to the location.
In North Bergen, dozens of residents prepped, cooked, and doled out food to those attending the Woodcliff Community Reformed Church’s Thanksgiving Day luncheon. They opened their hearts to the less fortunate on Nov. 28 on Palisade Avenue.
“Over 300 people came to enjoy the lunch and more than a hundred volunteers,” said Efrain Evertz, the operating manager of the Community Food Pantry at Woodcliff. “A homeless gentleman with tears in his eyes had mentioned how he could not believe that Woodcliff Community Reformed Church does something so wonderful on Thanksgiving.”
Donations came from Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken, Panera Bread, The Community Food Bank, and Dunkin’ Donuts, according to Evertz.
“Pastor Greg Dunlap gave a heartfelt Thanksgiving message,” he said. “[There were] a lot of high school volunteers, and families bringing their younger ones to volunteer.”
“A homeless gentleman with tears in his eyes had mentioned how he could not believe that Woodcliff Community Reformed Church does something so wonderful.” – Efrain Evertz
“This shows unity in the community on Thanksgiving Day,” Angela said. “Lunch was served at noon for those looking for a traditional Thanksgiving meal.”
“Me and my wife Angela started this event five years ago,” said Efrain Evertz, “seeing a need in the community on Thanksgiving Day for a warm meal, or a place to find someone to have lunch with on this special day of thanks. Seniors and homeless folks have seemed to be the majority part of the community that come to have lunch, and to enjoy the fellowship.”
At the shelter
In Union City, the holiday was commemorated with a special meal, but a day early, on the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 27. The dinner was hosted by the Palisades Emergency Residence Corporation (PERC) at its soup kitchen at 6 p.m. PERC runs a shelter in that town.
“Since many restaurants and organizations in our area offer special meals for free on Thanksgiving, we hold our special dinner the night before,” said Holly Behrens Aquino, .marketing manager.
In addition to great food, 2013 attendees enjoyed a dinner with a little more flair than usual.
“This year we created a much more elegant atmosphere in our dining room for all guests,” Aquino said. “With the help of Ed Haggerty of Classic Party Rentals in Secaucus, our dinner guests enjoyed a meal served on china along with silverware and glassware, not disposables.”
She added, “Classic Party Rentals also provided linens for the tables and special centerpieces. It was truly an event that our guests had not previously experienced before here at PERC.”
This year’s holiday dinner included 160 people, including 127 guests, and staff and volunteers, according to Aquino.
“This is a very low number for us for our Thanksgiving Dinner, but the weather was really bad and I'm sure that had an effect,” she said. “We normally serve over 200 people.”
Aquino reminded the public that PERC serves dinner at the facility 365 days a year to anyone in the community in need of a hot meal.
To volunteer, donate, or find out more about PERC, call (201) 348-8150.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.