2021 02 HE Hopewell Gives Back

Sam Fowler and Gavin Fowler with some of the donations collected during Hopewell Gives Back’s MLK Day of Service.

Organizers say the fourth annual Hopewell Gives Back: MLK Day of Service was a tremendous success thanks to community volunteers and flexible nonprofit organizations.

More than 100 volunteers registered online to give back to the community at the fourth annual MLK Day of Service hosted by the Hopewell Presbyterian Church. Three Hopewell Valley Central High School graduates — Sarah Cleveland, Sam Fowler, and Gavin Fowler — organized the event.

Over the last three years, the Hopewell Gives Back: MLK Day of Service has attracted hundreds of individuals, families, and members of organizations including Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and National Honors Society. The large, public events offered nonprofits an opportunity to engage volunteers of all ages in the important work that they’re doing in the community and around the world.

This year, the three young adults who founded Hopewell Gives Back were planning to pass the baton to a new team of teen volunteers, as they were all attending college.

“Sam, Gavin and I founded HGB to help bring the community together and give teens valuable nonprofit experience.” said Cleveland, a sophomore at McGill University. “The original plan was to bring middle and high schoolers up through the ranks of organizing and running the events.”

Sam Fowler, a freshman at Lafayette University, said that in March 2020 the trio had decided to postpone planning this year’s event. “We didn’t know how we were going to handle MLK Day with COVID,” he said. “The American Red Cross and the Hopewell Presbyterian Church let us go ahead with the blood drives with few changes, but we needed to come up with a whole new way to handle MLK Day.”

“We couldn’t let everyone down,” said event organizer, Gavin Fowler, a freshman at Colgate University. “We had to find a way for everyone to work virtually.”

In fact, the three students had to plan the event virtually, as well from Hopewell, Hamilton, New York, and Montreal. They weren’t sure how the nonprofits and volunteers would respond, but everyone quickly adapted to the new model.

Each nonprofit recorded a video to introduce participants to their work and demonstrate how to complete their various projects. Volunteers registered online, picked up “kits” at Hopewell Presbyterian Church on Saturday morning, completed projects at home, and dropped off finished projects at the church on Monday morning.

Together, the volunteers tied 25 full-sized fleece blankets and 375 no-sew facemasks for the The Rescue Mission of Trenton, 1,000 feminine hygiene kits for I Support the Girls Central/South New Jersey, decorated over 500 paper bags for Seeds to Sew International, and assembled 625 native seed packets for the Sourland Conservancy.

“The slots filled up so quickly online,” said volunteer Jennifer McNay. “My family wanted to do more.”

Organizers are considering a hybrid event for 2022 to accommodate more volunteers and nonprofits. Teens are needed to help plan and run future events. No experience is necessary.

Those interested can email hopewellgivesback@gmail.com for information or to sign up.