Silver lining: Vandalized Morristown church getting big help from Newark businessman

Shattered glass outside Morristown's Bethel A.M.E. Church. Police are investigating. Photo courtesy of Bethel A.M.E. Church.
Shattered glass outside Morristown's Bethel A.M.E. Church. Police are investigating. Photo courtesy of Bethel A.M.E. Church.
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A vandalized Morristown church is getting a whole lot more than it bargained for — thanks to a generous Newark businessman and his partners.

When Ed Danberry, CEO of Group One Investments LLC, offered to underwrite an estimated $2,000 of repairs for a sign damaged last month at Bethel A.M.E. Church, he got a tour from Pastor Sidney Williams Jr.

The minister casually mentioned that worship services are being held in the church basement because the sanctuary’s heating system died. So Danberry agreed to supply a $20,000 heating and air conditioning system, too.

Pastor Sidney Williams Jr. of Bethel A.M.E. Church beside shattered sign, Nov. 26, 2017. Photo by Bill Lescohier
Pastor Sidney Williams Jr. of Bethel A.M.E. Church beside shattered sign, Nov. 26, 2017. Photo by Bill Lescohier

“I thought heat was more pressing than the signs…hopefully, it will be ready in time for Christmas services,” Danberry said on Monday.

Williams is grateful.

“This is a huge blessing for us. We didn’t have the resources to fix our own heater,” said the pastor, whose church struggles to operate the Table of Hope soup kitchen.

Glass sign enclosures were shattered at four African American churches in Morristown and Morris Township, and a stained glass window was broken at another black church in Morristown, overnight on Nov. 24-25, 2017.

Authorities initially investigated the incidents as possible bias crimes. But the trail quickly led them to a local black man who was charged with criminal mischief.

The affected churches also have received $1,000 grants from the Community Foundation of New Jersey, said a spokesman for that nonprofit.

Group One is a “mini-conglomerate” that owns a sign shop, maintains airplane hangers at Newark Liberty Airport, builds restaurants in airport terminals, and has interests in cyber security, warehousing and parking lots, said Danberry, 70.

Civic Duty Partners logoThe Bethel work is being funded via his charitable organization, Civic Duty Partners, which includes his Group One partner Ron De Lucia, and cousin Eugene Van Note, president of the Jersey Mortgage Co. and owner of Lou’s Gun Shop in Raritan, he said.

“We look for causes that don’t necessarily get attention, and help them,” Danberry explained.

An Army veteran and trustee of the New Jersey Hall of Fame among other organizations, Danberry has supported a Somerset County battered women’s shelter; Heroes on Water, which takes veterans kayaking and fishing; and H.E.A.R.T. 9/11, which builds veterans housing and is assisting hurricane relief efforts in Houston and Puerto Rico.

Don Jay Smith, former executive director of the New Jersey Hall of Fame, counts himself among Danberry’s fans.
 

“He was very generous with his time and expertise and was always willing to help a worthy cause,” Smith said. “To him, philanthropy is more than just writing a check.” 

Danberry said Bethel A.M.E.’s plight resonated with him because for years he has read The Word for You Today, a pamphlet published by the national A.M.E. organization.

The Raritan native offered to replace damaged signs at the other four churches as well, but found no takers, he said. Pastors of Calvary Baptist Church and the Church of God in Christ for All Saints could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday night.

Danberry said his motivation is simple.

“I just see too much hatred in general in the world,” he said. “The best way to show love is action, not words.”

MORE ABOUT MORRISTOWN’S CHURCH VANDALISM

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