"The hotel has been doing this for the last few years," said Karyn Urtnowski, director of Social Services for the town of Secaucus. "They offer their employees turkeys, and what's left over, they donate to the food pantry."
Even in Secaucus, people can go hungry. Some people just don't earn enough money to make it through the month and still pay the bills, Urtnowski. As with other parts of the state, the Secaucus Food Pantry - supplied totally by donations - has become the fallback for families struggling to make ends meet.
"This is especially true since Sept. 11," Urtnowski said, saying that the demand on the food pantry has increased. Around the holidays, the food pantry makes certain that people in need get meals.
With the sagging economy, Secaucus has seen numerous other people in need of food. Some are unemployed with benefits running out. Others are under employed, and just do not have enough money to make it to the end of the month.
"Some are young moms with kids and others are disabled," Urtnowski. "This year we've seen a lot of people we never had before. Business is bad. People are getting laid off."
Urtnowski said many of those who seek the services of the food pantry year 'round are the working poor. Some are women trying to raise a family on as little as $11,000 a year.
"While we have some welfare clients, many are single parent households who work for minimum wage or just above it," she said. "Around the holidays, we give away food baskets to needy families. On Thanksgiving this year, we'll give away about 40 thanksgiving dinners including a turkey and all the trimmings. For Christmas we expect to do likewise. That includes the turkey and all the trimmings. Crowne Plaza has been very generous with us."
In Secaucus, the supplies for the Food Pantry come solely from donations.
"One way we get food is from the various food drives that are conducted through out the town," Urtnowski said. "The various Student Government Organizations, the churches, fire department and National Honor Society of the Foreign Language Society at the high school all help to keep the food pantry stocked."
Three days before Thanksgiving, four Secaucus Department of Public Works employees took the food around to various families in Secaucus.
"We've been doing this for about 23 years," she said.
The Secaucus Food Pantry will also give away meals at Christmas time, although Urtnowski said, "We generally give away hams instead of turkeys for Christmas."
The Secaucus Social Service Department also teams up with corporate and individual sponsors for a toy drive during the Christmas season.
"We usually get toys for about 150 kids," she said. "We have several corporations that sponsor toy drives. The local schools and firehouses also hold toy drives. Some corporations, banks and individuals adopt families."
Generally about a week before Christmas, the social services staff and various volunteers gather to wrap presents for the kids. Urtnowski said she could always use volunteers to wrap. In fact, the one item that seems in short supply every year is wrapping paper - so donations are appreciated.
People seeking to donate toys, food or time can do so by calling (201) 330-2014.