By: Michele DiPasquale
This year, Thanksgiving Day is November 28, and for many, it is a time to gather with our friends and family to give thanks for all that is good in our lives.
Regrettably, there are those without family or friends with whom to celebrate this uniquely American holiday of gratitude, so for the fourth year in a row, Mary Lalama and her husband, Township Council President Joe Nicastro, both publishers and owners of New View Media Group – a network of local newspapers mailed to over 130,000 homes and businesses in Morris County – are hosting their Thanksgiving for all at the Mt. Olive Senior Center from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The feast will be a full Thanksgiving seated dinner, beginning with appetizers and antipasti, salad and pasta, continuing on to turkey, stuffing, mashed and sweet potatoes, assorted vegetables, and finishing with an assortment of pies for dessert. Goody bags of the day’s menu are also given to everyone to take home to enjoy as leftovers.
Branda’s Italian Grill in Budd Lake, LongHorn Steakhouse in Flanders, Philly Pretzel Factory in Hackettstown, and corporate caterer Victoria Scherrer Onder are among the generous donators of the Thanksgiving banquet. Last year, table centerpieces were created by local Girls Scouts.
When asked what prompted Lalama and Nicastro to open their hearts and offer Thanksgiving dinner to anyone who may have nowhere to go for the day, Lalama answered directly from her heart.
“My family and I were sitting around on Thanksgiving four years ago and I said ‘Look at all this food we have. We are truly blessed and fortunate, and we need to think of a way to give back.’ So I said next year we’re going to host a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for anyone who is less fortunate or anyone who will be spending the day alone.”
Forging ahead further and embracing what Thanksgiving truly is all about, Lalama and Nicastro even provide transportation for those who otherwise may not be able to join them for dinner. About 50 people have joined them so far, while some folks get their dinner delivered to their homes, as they may be unable to physically leave them.
“The dinner is for anyone – single or a family – who may be less fortunate or who just are alone for the holiday. We hate to see people spend the holidays without family or friends, so we offer them a place to come and enjoy the company of others,” Lalama said.
And though a buffet-style dinner would be easier, Lalama insists on a fully-seated dinner, in which her children and other volunteers serve everything.
“We want everyone to feel like they are at a restaurant for the holiday,” she said.
“I love the fact that we can help people come together and provide them with good food, good conversation, and good company. We get a lot of elderly people that just want someone to be with and know that someone cares about them. I love the look on their faces when they interact with each other and the volunteers,” Lalama said.
Lalama said people are welcome to attend without reservations but are asked to sign up in advance by calling her at (973) 768-1815 or emailing her at email@example.com