Hundreds of homeless and community residents in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn were treated to a warm Thanksgiving Dinner by Brooklyn District Grand Lodge #1 of the Independent United Order of Mechanics, Friendly Society, Western Hemisphere, Inc., (IUOM) that is headquartered on Putnam Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Grenadian-born Daniel Roden, District Grand Master-elect of the Brooklyn District Grand Lodge #1, told Caribbean Life, in an exclusive interview at lodge headquarters, on Thanksgiving Day, that he felt a sense of duty to carry on the tradition of feeding the homeless during the holiday season.
“This is what the order stands for — taking care of benevolence and charity, taking care of members who are ailing,” said Roden, flanked by Jamaican Glenver R. Jones, deputy grand master of the order, and his compatriot, Hyacinth Robinson-Goldson, community liaison officer of the Order.
“Under this pandemic situation, we have put a food care program together,” added Roden, disclosing that members of the Order prepared the meals that comprised, among other things, macaroni and cheese, turkey, curried goat, ham, candid yam, and rice and peas.
“On the healthy side, we gave out bananas, apples and bottled water,” he continued. “We’re looking to feed about 300 people today. Annually, we feed up to 500, with a steady flow of people.
“Under normal circumstances, we also hand out clothing,” said Roden, stating that the Thanksgiving event is usually a “sit-down meal,” with clothing distribution, “but, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the meal is being served as ‘grab and go’ style.”
Roden complimented Galroi Mikriis, district grand assistant secretary-elect and his committee for “planning and executing the event.”
He said items for the meals were “all donated, with “members taking time out to prepare the meals, with some catering from local caterers.”
During the past months, Roden said, the Order distributed food to the sick and shut-ins, some of which was personally delivered by members.
“I look forward to 2021, when we can once again return to some normalcy in hosting our usual Thanksgiving Dinner and Clothing Drive,” he said.
Jones, who represented Errol Collins, Most Worshipful Grand Master, said he was “extremely, extremely pleased to know that, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, efforts were still being made to keep the tradition, and to fulfill the Order’s mission, which includes feeding the less fortunate and especially those who have lost jobs during the pandemic.
“We do this because there is always a need to help and assist the less fortunate,” he stressed, commending the Brooklyn District Grand Lodge #1 for “the annual Thanksgiving treat to the community, even more so at a time when we’re confronted with the pandemic.
“They still find ways and means to carry out their endeavor,” Jones said.
Over the years, he said, the Order has also given scholarships to college students, hosted health fairs, held Thanksgiving turkey distribution, and delivered meals to New York Police Department (NYPD) officers and healthcare workers at hospitals in Brooklyn.
Jones used the opportunity to invite the public to join the Order in a virtual Christmas Concert, which will be live-streamed from its headquarters.
Information on this event is available on the Order’s website at: iuomwh.org, or by contacting Roy Reid, the Jamaican-born public relations director at 917-681-1085.
Robinson-Goldson said that, though gentrification has taken over the neighborhood, “there is still a need within the community, which has been on the increase year after year.
“When we started in 1988, the neighborhood was not like now,” she said. “There were lots of homeless people on the sidewalks; there was dire need. Now, the type of people in the neighborhood is mostly white.”
Robinson-Goldson said, when the annual Thanksgiving treat was started by Ancil Harding, the area was “inundated with homelessness, close to the lodge building, owned by Excelsior Chapter and Morning Star Lodge on Bedford Avenue, near Fulton Streets.”
“As this event expanded, it was moved to 65 Putnam Ave., corner of Classon Avenue, which is the current headquarters of the Independent United Order of Mechanics, Friendly Society, Western Hemisphere, Inc., (IUOM) of which the Brooklyn District Grand Lodge #1,” she said.
Robinson-Goldson said the IUOM is worldwide fraternal organization, with branches throughout North and South America, Europe and the Caribbean.
Founded in 1757, in Lancashire, England, Robinson-Goldson said the Order was transferred to the United States in 1941.
She said Collins is its current leader and was elected to serve in this capacity at the Order’s 26th Triennial International Convention in Panama in October 2019.
Robinson-Goldson thanked members of NYPD 88th Precinct Community Affairs Department for assistance during this year’s Thanksgiving Dinner.