You may know that AmeriCorps members strengthen our communities in specific areas: disaster relief, healthy futures, education, veterans and military, environmental stewardship and economic opportunity. These focus areas have a lot in common with the mission of the YMCA: youth development, healthyliving and social responsiblity. I had the privledge this past weekend of volunteering for YMCA Swimming as a meet official. 1,500 young people ranging in age from 8 to 18 and representing almost 50 YMCA swim teams gathered at the University of Maryland Eppley Recreation Center for the 10th Annual Winterfest. Talk about character building! At any given moment over the weekend there were 1,000 spectators in the stands and 500 swimmers, coaches, and volunteer meet staff on the deck. Can you imagine the confidence, poise, and concentration the situation demands? Competition is held in two pools simultaneously and I am sure the decibels created rival an F-14 Fighter! The event is definitely a “live” demonstration of youth development, healthy living and social responsiblity. The swimmers were required to “qualify” to compete. This means they worked toward and achieved a requisite goal time based on their age and gender. They attended swim practice three to nine times a week so a healthy lifestyle is a must. Additionally, approximately 350 volunteer positions had to be filled over the weekend in order for the meet to take place; a prime opportunity for social responsiblity. Several volunteers were in training so it was an opportunity for them to learn additional skills and increase engagement in the future. All of these people are members of a YMCA where they have the opportunity to serve their communities every day.
The MLK Day of Service is both invitation and celebration. The invitation is to serve, ongoing, not just for one Monday in January. It is a celebration of all the calls to action that are answered, every day. Find a place to serve in your community today. You can start with the YMCA, your spiritual community or volunteer center. Next, invite a friend or family member to join you like Martin Luther King, Jr. did. You could host a Sunday Supper. Greater DC Cares and WPGC teamed up to work on this project: video-mlk-day-of-service. Your legacy of service can extend beyond your lifetime just as Martin Luther King, Jr.’s has.