Instead of regarding Martin Luther King Jr. Day as just another day off, community leaders suggest that Monday, Jan. 17, be a “day on” — a chance for families and individuals to act on the inspiration offered by the slain civil rights leader.
King taught that “everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.” The residents of Fanwood and Scotch Plains are being offered a day to act on that challenge to be great by serving one another — by taking part in the 2011 MLK Day of Service, sponsored by the Scotch Plains/Fanwood Ministerium.
To participate, community members can choose from a host of projects — among them baking pies, making mittens, painting a mural, doing garden work, packing duffel bags, making Valentine cards for soldiers, donating blood, sorting recyclables, and playing board games with the elderly.
Last year, the event opened with a ceremony at the JCC of Central New Jersey. This year, the commemoration starts with an interactive opening ceremony and program at the Scotch Plains YMCA, across from the JCC, on Martine Avenue in Scotch Plains, at 10 a.m.
The service activities begin right after the opening program and will be held throughout Scotch Plains and Fanwood, between 11:15 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Michele Shapiro Abraham, education director of Temple Sholom in Scotch Plains/Fanwood, is chair of the MLK Day Taskforce, organizing the event on behalf of the interfaith ministerium, as she did last year. It is part of the country-wide initiative United We Serve, President Barack Obama’s national call to service.
About 500 people took part last year in the inaugural local event, helping out with around 30 different projects. Abraham described it as one of the most powerful moments of her life, witnessing that many people committed to making the world a better place.
JCC program director Mike Goldstein said the 2010 MLK Day of Service was “amazing,” and he expects this year’s to be just as remarkable. “It’s a unique and rare opportunity for our community to come together regardless of race, religion, or creed,” he said. “It’s really an intergenerational day — a chance for people of all ages to come together and have a direct impact on the community.”
The 14 projects to be carried out at the JCC alone will include activities hosted by the Emmanuel Cancer Foundation, the Valerie Fund, Girls Scouts of America, and the American Red Cross. Interactive multimedia information sessions will explain the work of the participating organizations.
The Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey is also involved. Debbie Rosenwein, the director of planning and allocations, said the organization will sponsor a service project offering volunteers the opportunity to visit AristaCare at Norwood Terrace nursing and rehabilitation center in Plainfield between 1 and 2:30 p.m. Volunteers will have the opportunity to do readings on King and visit with the residents, playing board games with them or simply socializing.
Rosenwein said, “This is a wonderful opportunity to build community and gives families a chance to work together on a special project to honor Dr. King’s legacy.”
Though it will be possible to register for activities on the day, organizers recommend choosing and registering in advance. Participants may register till Friday, Jan. 15, through the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Patch, at scotchplains.patch.com.