On a snowy Saturday morning last month, two local women drove around picking up bags of children’s books left on front porches throughout Hopewell Valley.

Annie Saunders and Kim Robinson organized the donation of books to P.J. Hill Elementary School in neighboring Trenton.

They reached out to the community through popular local social media channels like the Hopewell Valley Yard Sale Facebook page, and were met with an overwhelming response.

At the time, it was purely a coincidence that their collection happened to take place on the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. When the women recognized the significance of the day, they decided to make their service effort an annual event, encouraging others throughout Hopewell to pursue an act of kindness as requested by the families of Newtown, Ct.

“There are needs all around us, and every effort to meet them, no matter how small, has an impact.  As we saw here, that effort can be as simple as handing a child a book,” say Saunders and Robinson.

Another friend and local mother of two young children, Kate Serge, organized a project this fall making sandwiches and assembling bagged lunches for delivery to HomeFront and the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK), two local charities.

Her effort stemmed from a desire to help her own children begin the process of living the values of compassion and service, and she welcomed local friends and families to her home for the project, making it a participatory experience for everyone. She hopes to do similar events in the future, creating care packages for troops stationed abroad, planting trees or doing a clothing drive.

The simple acts of soliciting book donations and packing bagged lunches are just a few examples of how Hopewell residents can and do give back to the community. On today’s annual Martin Luther King Day of Service, other local service opportunities abound, and many schools and businesses coordinate service efforts to make sure the holiday is observed as a “day on, not a day off.”

Established as a way to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of working nonviolently for freedom and justice, the MLK Day of Service is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service. Local service opportunities can easily be found at the MLK Day of Service website: Enter your city, state or zip code and a list of area service projects will be displayed through the site

Workplaces, schools, churches and other community organizations frequently organize their own service efforts around the holiday as well. Hopewell Elementary School, for example, integrates service learning into the curriculum with an annual Day of Service the Friday before the holiday. Each grade is paired with a community service partner based on curricular ties, and engaged in projects such as creating cards for members of the military stationed overseas, crafting blankets and Valentines for children recovering from open-heart surgery at area hospitals, and making various craft items to be sold at the School Store with proceeds benefiting victims of Superstorm Sandy.

Mercer County is full of opportunities to serve throughout the year – whether it is through hands-on projects or donations to local organizations.

Tell us – how do you get involved in giving back? What are your favorite local service organizations? 

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Andrea Fereshteh has been writing for as long as she can remember. An avid journal-keeper as a child, she dabbled in dramatic notes to her parents and designed her own stationary. With a zest for small talk and meeting new people, she pursued journalism in college and worked for nine years in PR, writing and media relations for the higher ed and nonprofit sectors. She has a mousters and ducktorate from Disney University and is a mother to two lively boys who inspire her to just keep writing, just keep writing.


  1. […] In 2013, their effort resulted in at least 25 bags of books being donated to the P.J. Hill Elementary School in Trenton.  Shari Allen, a teacher at P.J. Hill, said, “My students were very excited to receive the books. Everyone will be excited to get a book to take home for the holidays.” The 2014 drive saw about ten bags of books donated to the Carroll Robbins Elementary School in Trenton, another ten to their newly opened Annex, and four boxes of baby books donated to the Laura Spelman Childcare Center on Olden Avenue. […]