SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - The Rotary Club of Plainfield-North Plainfield is pleased to announce that South Plainfield resident Shirley Weaver Thompson will receive the 2017 Service Above Self Award at the club’s 18th Annual Wine Tasting Dinner. The event will be held on April 5 at Giovanna’s Restaurant in Plainfield, and is a fundraiser for the club’s scholarship program for graduating seniors. Tickets are available by email from Shannon Jefferys of Columbia Bank at sjefferys@columbiabankonline.com.

Club President Ravenell Williams cited Shirley’s exemplary service to the elderly and others in need at Christmas as the determining factor in her selection for the award. “Rotary International’s motto is ‘Service Above Self’”, said Mr. Williams. “Rotarians strive to provide service to others in all of our projects and activities. We also seek out community leaders from Plainfield, North Plainfield, or South Plainfield who are actively involved in exemplary projects or activities that benefit their respective communities,” said Williams. “Shirley was selected for her years of service to others through her Shirley Thompson’s Christmas project.”

Shirley organizes, collects, and distributes Christmas gifts and hot Christmas dinners to families in South Plainfield who, without help, would not have Christmas presents for their children. Her volunteers also deliver hot Christmas dinners to senior citizens in South Plainfield who would normally receive Meals on Wheels (which does not deliver on Christmas Day). Shirley decided to make the meals herself, not realizing the good deed would have a snowball effect.

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This year will be the 14th year that Shirley has cooked and delivered a hot meal to senior citizens and families in need on Christmas day; last year, the number was over 140. Shirley also obtains family and children’s names from Social Services and “adopts” the children out to friends and families, distributing hundreds of gifts for the children.  Rather than wrap each of the gifts, Shirley and her volunteers provide the gifts and the tape, wrapping paper, and tags so that the children’s parents can wrap the gifts and share in the Christmas spirit.

Shirley relies solely on donations from friends, families and local businesses. Twice a year, Mr. Subs holds a fundraiser and donates a portion of the sales proceeds to be used for the purchasing of items needed to cook for the Christmas dinner. Collection boxes for new clothes and toys were hosted last year at Mr. Subs, the Observer Newspaper office, Investors Bank, and at Bagel Pantry, all in South Plainfield.

Other examples of community support over the years include class reunions donating funds; local business having special sales and donating a portion of the proceeds; local service clubs and girl and boy scouts volunteering their services.

All gifts that Shirley and her volunteers distribute are donated from local businesses, friends, family, and neighbors. Shirley also receives donations from people she has never met but who have seen her Facebook postings or heard about the Christmas project through friends. All food used to prepare Christmas dinners is purchased from the monetary donations that Shirley receives.

It has become customary for Shirley to ask for and receive donations of the following items (all items are new and unwrapped): book bags, hats, gloves and scarves, socks, toys (no war toys), games, puzzles and coloring books; gift cards for teenagers and supermarket gift cards for the elderly. All items are age-appropriate for children in elementary through high school.

“Thousands of people have benefited from Shirley’s loving and giving heart, including families in need and families and individuals who have volunteered to help,” said Mr. Williams. “When we think of service to others that the Service Above Self Award represents, we think of people like Shirley Thompson who give so selflessly to help others. Our Club’s Board of Directors enthusiastically selected Shirley W. Thompson for the 2017 Service Above Self Award.”

Past recipients of the award include Janice Allen, former mayor and councilwoman North Plainfield (2010 - inaugural recipient); William Parenti, North Plainfield Chief of Police (2011); Michael Townley, South Plainfield resident and Rotary member (2012); Donna Albanese, Plainfield business owner and leader (2013); Dr. Marilyn Birnbaum, Superintendent of Schools North Plainfield (2014); Plainfield Mayor Adrian Mapp (2015); North Plainfield Mayor Michael Giordano (2016).

Tickets for the Wine Tasting Dinner are $70.00 each. A tax deductible portion of the cost is made possible by writing checks to the Rotary Plainfield-North Plainfield Foundation (Rotary PNP, Inc.). Seating is limited and early reservations recommended. Tables will be reserved for parties of eight or more. Please contact Shannon Jefferys of South Plainfield’s Columbia Bank for more information and to make a reservation. Shannon can be reached at 908-757-1055 or via email at sjefferys@columbiabankonline.com.

For more information about the Rotary Club of Plainfield-North Plainfield, visit their website at www.RotaryPNP.org. The club meets every Wednesday at 12:15 PM at Giovanna’s Restaurant, 1462 South Avenue in Plainfield. Anyone interested in learning more about Rotary and the club is invited to attend a meeting as a guest of the Club.