PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – On this Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, Rotary Clubs in northern New Jersey packaged thousands of meals for the needy.

“Martin Luther King Day is supposed to be a national day of service,” Bonnie Sirower told WCBS 880’s Sean Adams. “Rotary clubs provide service, we change lives.”

Sirower has marshaled support from dozens of Rotary chapters all across north Jersey.

“On Martin Luther King Day, we are having about 250 volunteers at the Paterson Hope Community Center on Temple Street and they are going to package 25,0000 meals,” she told Adams.

The meals consist of rice and beans, which will provide desperately needed nutrition to people all across the area.

“There are 1 in 6 children who go to bed hungry in our affluent area and that is a shame,” said Sirower. “We have so much wealth in this area. For children to go to sleep hungry is terrible.”

Stories from Main Street - Photo: Evan Bindelglass / WCBS 880

Stories from Main Street – Photo: Evan Bindelglass / WCBS 880

The Rotary Club is also collecting food for military families in need.

“Active duty families, people who are just home from the war, soldiers who just got out. There’s so much unemployment among that group,” said Sirower.

As Adams reported, the need continues to exist despite Wall Street going up and the recovery continuing from the Great Recession.

“A large population doesn’t relate to the stock market. They’re having trouble making it paycheck to paycheck,” Rev. Patricia Bruger told Adams.

She started CUMAC, a food pantry and resource center that serves upward of 3,300 people per month in Paterson.

“Many of the persons who come into our food pantry work, have a part-time job somewhere. But if they’re working at McDonald’s or Walgreens or something like that, the new minimum wage is only $8.25 an hour. That is not a livable wage in northern New Jersey,” said Bruger. “It’s not just communities like Paterson. We have people who are hungry in Wayne and Wyckoff and the other wealthier communities around us. Affluent neighborhoods who need our services.”

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The volunteers packing meals come from all different walks of life, said Sirower. They won’t be thinking about race or creed, just about the fact that there’s a need, she said.

“I think that Martin Luther King would look around and say, ‘I had a dream, and here it is,'” said Sirower.

“It is a realization of the dream. It is the kind of thing that persons like Martin Luther King said to us: go into your communities, make a difference, help your neighbor, help them get through the difficult times of life, let us be one together,” Bruger added.

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