Booker's last Thanksgiving stop is at Newark food pantry

By David Giambusso/The Star-Ledger
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on November 28, 2013

U.S. Senator Cory Booker, pictured here with Debi Hall-Dean, capped off his Thanksgiving tour of state food pantries in Newark. (David Giambusso/The Star-Ledger)


NEWARK — U.S. Senator Cory Booker mixed it up with a small band of volunteers this Thanksgiving mobilizing almost 2,000 meals for the sick and needy in a South Ward church basement.

Started five years ago by Debi Dean-Hall and Alan Kamel at the Franklin Street St. John's United Methodist Church, the holiday food drive delivers a full Thanksgiving meal, with dessert, to anyone who needs it in Newark, Irvington, Hillside and East Orange.

"I'm really moved by it," Booker said as he met with volunteers and snapped photos with supporters. "They were telling me this was an outgrowth of Newark Now."

Newark Now is the non-profit founded by Booker in 2003. It focused on developing community partnerships to leverage resources for low-income residents.

Hall-Dean and Kamel said those partnerships have helped grow the program to deliver not just food but clothing and hygiene supplies to thousands of area residents. The food and clothing is donated from local businesses. It is prepared and delivered by about a dozen volunteers

"At first we were counting the number of cherry tomatoes to make it last," said Kamel, a local attorney. "Now we have a bounty of stuff."

When the program opened, Hall-Dean said only about 20 or 30 people showed up.

"The next year we started putting out feelers and there were senior homes, nursing homes...we started cooking and delivering," she said.

The stop was the last one Booker made in a two-day Thanksgiving tour, stopping at about eight similar food pantries from Atlantic City to Newark. He was accompanied by his mother, Carolyn Booker, and he said the two will have Thanksgiving at Booker's Longworth St. home.

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