To many, Martin Luther King Jr. Day offers a welcome vacation from school or work. But to three local teenagers, this MLK Day was more than that — it was an opportunity to embody the ideals set forth by Dr. King and engage the community.
Hopewell Valley Central High School students, Sarah Cleveland, Gavin Fowler, and Samuel Fowler, were looking for a special way to celebrate MLK Day in their community. Through their many years in Scouting, the three teens had volunteered for many projects with their troops. This time, they wanted to find a fun way to connect community members of all ages with the many nonprofits in the area.
“We hope to raise awareness of the great work that these organizations are doing and the many ways that people of all ages can help,” said Sarah.
Last fall, Sarah, Sam, and Gavin began to make a plan. They reached out to several nonprofits to ask if they would like to participate in a community-wide event at Hopewell Presbyterian Church, where both their Scout troops hold regular meetings. Then, they began to spread the word to area schools, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and National Honor Society looking for volunteers. They also asked the nonprofits to help spread the word.
Since this was the first event of its kind, they were not sure what the response would be. Then, the replies began pouring in. “The turnout was great,” said Gavin.
Fifty volunteers spent three hours rotating between five activity stations: making 266 bags of chocolate chip cookies for TASK, fourteen fleece blankets for The Rescue Mission of Trenton, and 420 seed bombs for the Sourland Conservancy. For Seeds to Sew, the group organized 830 bags sewn by women in Kenya and decorated over 300 gift bags. In addition to working at the stations, volunteers also donated $85, over 80 pounds of canned goods for Mercer Street Friends and 100 warm winter coats for the Rescue Mission of Trenton.
Hopewell Borough resident, Sue Dayner, brought her son and daughter to the event. “It was a great day, and so well organized! Thank you to the Fowler / Cleveland team!” said Dayner.
“This was a lot of fun. I can’t wait until next year,” said Sam, one of the organizers.
Thanks to the success, plans for 2019 have already begun.