LIVINGSTON, NJ — A few weeks after having record participation at its 21st annual Martin Luther King (MLK) Jr. Day of Service event, the Livingston Committee for Diversity and Inclusion (LCDI) joined Mayor Al Anthony and members of the township council in honoring the many volunteers on Monday.
Since the success of this annual event relies on a true community effort, LCDI co-chairs Billy Fine and Keith Hines felt it was important to recognize the local students, service groups, businesses and community members who volunteered time on their day off to give back.
“[LCDI] does things throughout the entire year, but Martin Luther King Day has really become an example throughout all the municipalities in New Jersey of what can be done when everyone serves other people and gives back,” said Anthony as he and his fellow council members handed out proclamations to volunteers.
One stand out among the student volunteers who participated in the event was Charlotte Heilpern, who single-handedly collected much-needed funds and supplies for the dogs and cats at Livingston’s Mt. Pleasant Animal Shelter. Her efforts at the MLK Day event contributed to a community service project done for her bat mitzvah, which she has since celebrated.
“As opposed to everyone else who had groups helping them, you did it all by yourself,” said Anthony. “We want to recognize you for the great job you did…It’s vital to have new generations of volunteerism here in our great town. You have cemented a place all your own as the only person who conducted a service project by yourself instead of being a part of a group, and your dedication is commended.”
The council also thanked students from Hillside and Riker Hill elementary schools along with the members of each school's PTA. Alyse Heilpern, secretary to the Hillside PTA and a member of LCDI, was in attendance at Monday's meeting to accept the proclamation on the half of the school after being instrumental in recruiting student volunteers and parents to participate in the event.
During the event, Riker Hill students and PTA members collected children’s pajamas and books, while Hillside students and PTA members conducted art projects. Also at the event but not in attendance on Monday were Burnet Hill Elementary school students and PTA members, who collected nonperishable food donations for the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW) and items for the Birthday Box Project.
The members of a number of Boy and Girl Scout troops were also honored on Monday as follows:
- Boy Scout Troop 16 for supporting other groups and service projects
- Girl Scout Troop 20164 for collecting toiletries for Eva’s Village in Paterson
- Girl Scout Troop 20290 for presenting their “Take Action” project
- Girl Scout Troop 20302 for presenting on the importance of taking five-minute showers for water conservation
- Girl Scout Troop 20735 for collecting cleaning supplies for Livingston Neighbors Helping Neighbors
- Girl Scout Troop 20743 for offering their “Color a Smile” project
- All Girl Scout troops for making stuffed animals for RWJBarnabas Health’s youth patients
- South Mountain Troop 28 for collecting new, unopened toys and supplies for the Birthday Box Project
“With all of these different troops, it’s a testament to the youth volunteerism here in Livingston,” said Fine. “At the last council meeting, we heard a little bit about Volunteer Way, our new street in town, and I think it’s safe to say that this is who Volunteer Way was made for.”
LCDI council liaison Ed Meinhardt presented the proclamation to the owners of Ike’s Bagel Café for stepping up to support this and other events throughout the year by donating food and services. He said that Ike’s seems to increase its donations to the township with every passing day, and that owners Steve and Jordan Vaccari “always make sure to fit the needs of the people in town, whether in the form of contribution or just the way they conduct their general business.”
“This year, Ike’s Bagel doubled their donation, thus showcasing the kindness and quality of service that they provide to Livingston,” said Meinhardt. “Livingston and the LCDI honor you for your ability to serve when called upon. Many people, including the LCDI chairs, consider it a privilege to have Ike and his staff as friends.”
Also honored for their contributions were Jordan McMeen and her staff members at Blaze Pizza, who donated pizza, salads and more to the event in addition to manning their “Ring of Fire” prize wheel. Fine said he appreciated not only the donations, but the staff’s effort to interact and engage with community members throughout the event as well.
“This year, the increased donation of pizza was a sign of the immense value that our citizens place on your generosity,” said Fine. “We look forward to continuing a strong partnership in town for many years to come.”
LCDI member Brian O'Shea was presented with a special proclamation recognizing not only his giving nature, but also the talent that he brings to the event each year as he recites Dr. King’s powerful speeches from memory.
“Reciting each word by heart, Mr. O’shea embodies the power of the written and spoken word,” said Fine. “We are fortunate to host such a guest who requests no more than to be included in our celebration, as he volunteers his time and skills so freely to our program.”
The council concluded Monday’s recognition ceremony by thanking Fine and Hines for the hard work they put in to planning and executing this event.
“Due to [their] efforts, all of our residents have a better understanding of the holiday and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” the proclamation reads.
A highlight of the January event was when Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill made an appearance with her daughter and members of her staff, including District Chiefs Jill Hirsch and Kellie Doucette as well as Communications Chief Jackie Burns.
On behalf of LCDI, Fine and Hines thanked Sherrill for her attendance and also acknoledged all of the other groups who hosted tables; the residents who participated; Alex Arjoonsingh for delivering professional photos and video of the event; other event speakers, including Mayor Anthony, Livingston Board of Education member Ronnie Konner and Freeholder Pat Sebold; the township manager’s office; the clerk’s office; Department of Public Works members Brian Fahy & George Goldtrap; and the township communications office.
Recognized for providing security and helping to coordinate the event were Livingston Police Chief Gary Marshuetz, Captains John Drumm and Tom Smith, Lt. Reese Riley and Officers Kevin Mullaney, Joy Klapal, Dave Cordero and Todd Compesi.
“This event is not something that one committee can do, it’s not something that one group of elected officials can do, it’s something that the community can do together,” said Fine as he encouraged Livingston residents to continue doing all they can to give back to their community.