Around 550 people from all parts of the Central New Jersey community came together for the first Scotch Plains/Fanwood Martin Luther King Day of Service on Monday, Jan. 18. In honor of the late civil rights campaigner, they joined forces — crossing boundaries of age and race and religion — to help the needy — including those in Haiti — in all kinds of ways at 25 sites around the area.
The event, based at the Wilf Jewish Community Campus, was the brainchild of Michelle Shapiro Abraham and her husband, Rabbi Joel Abraham of Temple Sholom in Fanwood. It was cosponsored by the JCC of Central New Jersey, the Jewish Federation of Central NJ, the Borough of Fanwood, the Township of Scotch Plains, the Fanwood/Scotch Plains Ministerium, the Fanwood/Scotch Plains YMCA, Patch.com, and the United Way.
Event chair Shapiro Abraham said afterwards that it was “very exciting.” She was approached by many people who told her how grateful they were to have such a gathering in their community, and said they would like to help organize next year’s event.
Joel Abraham, past president of the multi-denominational Scotch Plains/Fanwood Ministerium, spoke at the opening ceremony in the JCC gym. He was joined by Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Dist. 22), State Senator Tom Kean (R-Dist. 21), Mayor Colleen Mahr of Fanwood, and Mayor Nancy Malool of Scotch Plains.
Stender told the participants, “I think the outpouring of compassion — people coming together — is because we understand our humanity is shared.”
Activities ranged from baking apple pies and making sandwiches for the hungry to decorating flower pots for seniors and Valentine’s Day cards for soldiers. Some adults spent time speaking with seniors and writing down their stories; others donated blood or sorted out recycled materials, or took advantage of the relatively mild weather to help clean up the Fanwood Nature Center.
Children got into the spirit of the event by creating bright signs with words such as “community,” “equality,” “compassion,” “courage,” and “respect.”