SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service is a day "ON," not off, according to local organizer Michelle Shapiro-Abraham, who has co-chaired the community event for the past several years.

"The Opening Program this year will be at the JCC of Central NJ (1391 Martine Ave.) on Jan. 18 at 10:00 a.m., followed by volunteer opportunities from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.," said Shapiro-Abraham, who co-manages the day’s activities with Amanda Barnett and Courtney Agnello.

A number of different events will take place in Scotch Plains-Fanwood on MLK Day, including:

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Health Kit Collection, Assembly, & Distribution (Jan. 4 – Jan. 18)

Volunteers from Scotch Plains and Fanwood need help assembling 500 health kits to be distributed by nursing students to people in need in the Dominican Republic and throughout Union County shelters. Items needed to complete the kits include:

  • toothbrushes
  • large tubes of toothpaste
  • washcloths
  • large bars of soap
  • shampoo
  • combs/hair picks
  • dental floss, deodorant
  • gallon-size Ziploc bags.
  • travel size toiletry items are also being accepted for local shelters.

Collection boxes are located at the Scotch Plains Township Municipal Building (430 Park Ave.), Scotch Plains Public Library (1927 Bartle Ave.), and St. Johns Baptist Church (2387 Morse Ave.). The assembly of health kits will take place at Shady Rest on Jan. 18 from 11:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. To learn more and sign up as a volunteer, visit and click on “Event Planners” to register.

Gently Used Plastic Toy Collection (10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. at JCC)

Second Chance Toys is a charitable organization that encourages the collection of gently used plastic toys and matches the collection of toys with organizations that care for children in need. During the MLK day at the JCC (1391 Martine Ave., Scotch Plains), volunteers are needed to oversee the collection of gently used plastic toys, wipe them down, place them in large plastic garbage bags, and then help load the toys onto a truck bound for The Apostolic Church in Newark for distribution.

Clothes/Food Drive for Project Warmth (10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. at 32 2nd Street, Fanwood)

Project Warmth will collect clothes/blankets/shoes/food for the homeless in need. The next event will be taking place January 31 at Newark Penn Station from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Dress for Success Collection (11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. at JCC)

Dress for Success will be collecting the following gently-used items on Jan. 18:

  • interview-appropriate suits
  • interview-appropriate blouses
  • professional separates including blouses, slacks, skirts,
  • dresses, blazers and jackets
  • work-appropriate shoes
  • jewelry and scarves
  • handbags (briefcases, portfolios or work-appropriate handbags)
  • Dress for Success especially needs plus-size items

Making Mittens from Old Sweaters (11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. at Fanwood Presbyterian Education building, Marian Ave.)

People will learn how mittens can be made from old sweaters. Some may turn the mittens right side out and check for holes to be mended.


Blood Drive (11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. at JCC)

A decision to donate your blood can save a life, or even several if your blood is separated into its components — red cells, platelets and plasma — which can be used individually for patients with specific conditions. Ages 18+ only

Food Drive (11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. at JCC lobby)

Donations will be accepted for a local food bank. Please bring non-perishable items.

Birthday Box Cards (11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. at The Goddard School – only 12 spaces left)

Children of all ages are invited to make birthday cards to be included in a Birthday Box. The Birthday Box is a non-profit organization that provides children in need with an opportunity to blow out candles and make a birthday wish on his or her special day. An entire birthday celebration is assembled, packaged & then delivered in a recycled box. These boxes include a birthday cake, candles, party plates, a birthday present and party decorations. All ages are welcome.

Please consider bringing a donation for a Birthday Box as well. Items needed include:

  • new, unopened, toys, games, books for ages 0-16
  • new, unopened, party supplies (plates, utensils, napkins, decorations, cake mix, etc.)
  • gift wrapping supplies (wrapping paper, tissue paper, tape, packing tape, corrugated boxes)
  • gift cards are always welcome (bakeries, other)

Need to Read Book Pick-up and Sign Decorating (11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. TBA)

The Need2Read Program, Inc. is gearing up for its 1st annual book sale to raise funds for operational cost and projects throughout the year. The program offers a weekly literacy program to homeless youth and is looking to give back locally through youth service projects, reading workshops, and writing camps for local students here in Scotch Plains.

On Jan. 18, volunteers will help transport donated books from the activity organizer's home to the MLK Day of Service activity site. Volunteers must have vehicles with ample cargo space to transport books.

Additionally, volunteers are needed to create and decorate signs and posters for Need2Read's upcoming book sale. Poster board, markers, construction paper, glitter, and more will be supplied. If you have a few favorite art supplies feel free to bring them along. This activity takes place 12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. at a place to be determined.

Sandwich Making (11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. at YMCA – 32 spaces left)

Sandwiches will be made at the YMCA. The sandwiches will be brought to the Salvation Army in Plainfield and/or other local organizations that provide meals. Please only bring children who are old enough to stand at a table and make a sandwich. (Last year, the youngest helpers were kindergarteners.) All participants must wear gloves for sanitary reasons.

Poverty Awareness Games/Craft (11:30 a.m. - 3:00 Immaculate Heart of Mary Rec. Center)

Volunteers will explore the issues of Poverty/Homelessness with a game or two. They will make "Care Bags" to be donated to a shelter. Volunteers can come, spend 30 minutes – one hour to learn, play and help make the bags. Please consider bringing small toiletry items such as:

  • toothpaste
  • shampoo and conditioner
  • soap
  • dental floss
  • Chap Stick
  • deodorant
  • socks.

Making Blankets (12:30 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. at Temple Sholom, 1925 Lake Ave, Scotch Plains)

Volunteers will crochet or sew together premade squares to make blankets. Some fleece squares that can be knotted together will also be available. Experts will teach any skills needed; no experience necessary.

Color-A-Smile (1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. at YMCA)

Brownie Troop 40304 will host a coloring station where people can stop by and color pictures that will be sent to the Color-A-Smile organization, where they will be distributed to people who need cheering up. Recipients can include military troops, elderly, children and individuals in the hospital. Coloring pages and utensils will be supplied. Just bring enthusiasm and get ready to make someone smile!

Individuals and organizations who would like to set service projects to be included in the day's official list of activities may do so by clicking on the MLK Day of Service registration page.

Adults and families welcome. Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult at all MLK Day activities.For more information, visit the Facebook page or e-mail