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'Anybody can serve'; BHDC Is Proud to Bring Community Together Through Service

Adabelle Moore, a 99 year old resident at Autumn Lake Healthcare at Berkeley Heights, excitedly told a crowded room of residents and volunteers about her meeting Martin Luther King Jr. when she rode a bus to Washington D.C. as thousands of people gathered for the 1963 March on Washington to draw attention to the continuing challenges and inequalities faced by African Americans a century after emancipation.

She had the opportunity to tell this story at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day event held at Autumn Lake on Monday. She explained that it is much better now, but during that time, she was faced with many restrictions because the color of her skin. With her father dying when she was 12 years old, there was no hope for her to get an education. She shared a message to the youth of today, "Try to be better for yourself, go to school and get an education. That will help you."

Berkeley Heights Diversity Council hosted a series of events on Monday to carry out the message of Martin Luther King Jr. The group initiated this Day of Service in Berkeley Heights two years ago by coordinating a multigenerational event at Autumn Lake Healthcare for volunteers to spend time playing games with the residents. 

Due to the overwhelming turnout over the past two years, the Diversity Council expanded the program to include a food drive at Little Flower Church and collaborated with the New Providence Diversity Committee to host a celebration jam at the Annex in New Providence. 

These events bring a sense of solidarity and reinforces the importance of service to celebrate and honor the life of the man who brought hope and healing to America.  In honor of MLK Jr.'s legacy, communities find meaningful ways to serve by volunteering to give back at a local nursing home, hospital, animal shelter, library, food bank or soup kitchen. All acts of service are generous acts. 

"Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love." ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"The Berkeley Heights Diversity Council has a great group of volunteers who make these events possible," said Karen Foote. Foote and Dan McLaughlin coordinated the food drive event.  "I'm really proud of the work that we have done and continue to do to bring the community together."

The day began with about 75 "enthusiastic individuals from the community" taking part in sorting and stocking hundreds of donated items at the Little Flower Food Pantry. The volunteers ranged from six to 76 years of age and included families, Berkeley Heights PBA 144 and Boy Scout troop 68. 

"We were so pleased that the Berkeley Heights Diversity Council chose Little Flower Food Pantry to serve on Martin Luther King Day," said Margaret Manning, Pastoral Associate for Ministries and Liturgy. "Our patron saint, St. Therese, nicknamed the Little Flower, wrote about the importance of doing small acts with great love. The group of volunteers completed a seemingly simple service project, collecting and sorting food. It didn't require a lot of energy, but the impact this makes is huge. We provide for dozens of families each month from Berkeley Heights and surrounding towns and we can't serve our guests without the help and generosity of people like the BH Diversity Council." 

For the third year, the community bingo event at Autumn Lake Healthcare at Berkeley Heights drew a large crowd that included council members Jeanne Kingsley, Peter Bavoso, Manny Couto and Susan Poage as well as Police Chief John DiPasquale and School Board President Doug Reinstein and families.

After the inspirational reading of the "I have a dream" speech by local students from Berkeley Heights and Mountainside, Jimmy Joseph, a founder of the Berkeley Heights Diversity Council, told the crowd how this event has touched him for many reasons. "It takes a lot for people to come out on a day like this to recognize what is going on in life," he said. "The small things that we give back to our community here means a lot."

The volunteers sat among the residents of the nursing home and played bingo and there were plenty of prizes handed to the Bingo winners. 

The following local businesses helped to support the events with gift and food donations: Anything Floral, Joe's Pizzeria in Summit, Berkeley Heights Dunkin Donuts, Stop & Shop, Berkeley Hardware and Paint, and many Berkeley Heights neighbors.

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