Food was ready to be served in aluminum trays as chairs were set up in a dine-in-movie-like fashion along Ewing Street behind the Rescue Mission of Trenton. With a buffet of burgers, watermelon, pasta salad and more, the seventh annual Dinner and a Movie Night hosted by Clara’s Heart LLC kicked off Wednesday night without a hitch.
“Today, there are 100 people who light candles and are brightening people’s lives,” Mayor W. Reed Gusciora said. “This shows humanity’s capacity for anything. And we were showing the love tonight.”
At least 60 volunteers served over 250 people on Wednesday. “We got volunteers from all over the city,” Brian Blakely, Founder of Clara’s Heart, said.
One of the volunteers was C. Andre Daniels, Director of Housing and Economic Development, who explained that everyone came out to support. “I guess the biggest part is…we have an opportunity to help those who may need a hand-up, not a handout. Today, it’s an opportunity for the community to come together as one,” Daniels said.
The food was donated by different Trenton organizations like 1911 Smokehouse, Forconi Foods, Sikh Sabha of New Jersey, The Latino Merchant Association, and The Anchor House. The McDonald’s on Chambers Street and Hamilton Avenue also brought drinks.
Rosa Rosado, Owner and operator of McDonald’s, has been volunteering for seven years with her team of workers. “We have been here since day one…we have been here along with them for seven years…it brings a lot of joy to give back and to be part of the community and see the joy in people’s faces,” Rosado said.
Clara’s Heart does multiple service projects like this each year, including a coat drive that happens throughout December and January.
“Their summer event has been a staple of the season in Trenton,” said Barrett Young, Chief Executive Officer of The Rescue Mission. “Brian and his team have created an event that has become a part of The Mission’s history and is so appreciated by our clients and those in need. Everyone looks forward to seeing familiar faces and new ones. The planning and care that goes into this evening of community and fellowship are priceless,” Young said.
Rey Brisbom, who lives at the Rescue Mission, waited in line to get his meal filling his plate with different food. “I just came from work, and I saw It… I’m grateful to see people eating, getting along, and congregating. This brings people together, unity, you have all shapes, sizes, colors, creed, everything,” Brisbom said.
Dinner and a Movie started seven years ago after Blakely noticed Eric Muhammad, Vice President at Outdoor Flicks, doing movies for kids in different parks across Mercer County. Blakely decided to get in contact with him through an unusual means, The ALS Ice bucket challenge.
“So I did the ice bucket over the top of my head thing, and I challenged (Muhammad) to get with me and create a dinner and a movie for the homeless,” Blakely said.
Since then, the two have worked together to make this happen every year.
“I feel great,” Muhammad said. “I always feel great because it’s always good to give back to the community. Sometimes when it’s hot, I don’t want to come out, but tonight I know we’re giving back. We’re feeding people that are hungry.”
It has become an event for the community to come out and help. The organizations that were there were as follows: Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America, The Lodge Brothers, Anchor House, B-FIRE, Trenton Water Works, 98.5 Radio station, Trenton Rescue Mission, The City of Trenton, McDonald’s, 1911 SmokeHouse with Reese Lennon as the grillmaster, Forconi Foods, and the Latino Merchants Association.
For Ve’Ree Busch, a Trenton resident staying at the rescue mission, this is just another way she has found help in Trenton. “It gives us a sense of self longing. It gives us a sense of inclusivity where we’re all included in this,” Busch said.