Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service- A day on instead of a day off

Last week Volunteer Maryland Peer Leader, Elena Felton blogged about Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, and discussed what it means to serve.  Well, this past Monday myself, Elena and several Volunteer Maryland Coordinators did some service of our own. It was a day filled with giving back and doing good things in communities throughout Baltimore and Frederick.  We started the morning at Ambrose Kennedy Park where we worked with over 100 volunteers, including several AmeriCorps members cleaning and restoring the park for the community to enjoy.  We collected trash, broke-up old asphalt to lay down new cement, built tire pyramids for children to play on and helped increase the stability of the fence surrounding the park.  When that project concluded we headed to Frederick to serve with the Asian American Center of Frederick, a Volunteer Maryland Service Site, where we helped kids celebrate the day by writing postcards to service men and women around the country, drawing pictures that depicted what citizenship meant to them and drawing pictures that showed what their dreams were.  So, for the rest of this blog I’m going to let pictures be worth a thousand words and show you a little of what we did.

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Volunteer Maryland Coordinators Ashia Moultrie, Winona Caesar, and Ericka Blackwell worked with fellow AmeriCorps members cleaning up the alleyway behind Ambrose Kennedy Park with fellow AmeriCorps Members.

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Volunteer Maryland Coordinator Ericka Blackwell and myself digging up weeds and collecting trash around Ambrose Kennedy Park.

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Volunteer Maryland with the State’s Attorney General of Baltimore Maryland Gregg Bernstein after having a discussion about what volunteering means to us and why we serve with AmeriCorps.

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Volunteer Maryland Coordinator Ruth Santa Maria helping register one of the 50 + kids who came to the  Asian American Center of Frederick.

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Children, staff, Volunteer Maryland Coordinator Jessica Peiffer and Peer Leaders Taeketra and Elena at the Asian American Center of Frederick celebrating the “I have a dream” children’s mural.

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An up-close look at the “I have a dream” mural made by children at the Asian American Center of Frederick.

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United in Service

This Saturday I took part in one of the largest volunteer events that I have seen.  Bringing together almost 10,000 volunteers, Unite America in Service created the opportunity for people to serve in Washington, D.C. on our National Day of Service in a big way.  I’m used to events with 10, 20, or maybe even 100 volunteers present, but the sheer number of volunteers made this day a whole new experience with service for me.

Over the course of the day, I had a chance to see what kinds of groups came out.  There were youth groups, college students, service fraternities and sororities, political leaders, and lots and lots of AmeriCorps members!  AmeriCorps members from all branches were there serving in force; I spoke to one member who said that he and a friend had arrived by car just that afternoon all the way from Tallahassee, Florida.  And everywhere I looked, there were men and women sporting the National Civilian Conservation Corps (NCCC) shirt, hard at work.   Even former members of AmeriCorps were out in strength; over a hundred AmeriCorps Alums from D.C. and Baltimore contributed their time that day.

MLK Day
Packing up the finished care packages.

Together, we packed 100,000 care packages and wrote reams of personal thank you letters  to be sent to members of the armed forces, disabled veterans, and first responders through Operation Gratitude.  It was amazing to see at the end of the day the result of our efforts filling a semi-truck.

What this undertaking made me think about that day was the strength of people’s desire to serve their community.  I had thought that convincing a few dozen volunteers to come and give their time as volunteers sounded like a challenge, but this project demonstrated that there must be several thousand people in this area who were just waiting for an opportunity to volunteer.

One of the key goals our Volunteer Maryland Coordinators have is getting potential volunteers engaged and passionate.  You might have a cause that people like, but getting them to give their time and effort to it, to endorse it to others and to commit themselves to it’s success, can be a major hurdle.   But if this past Saturday showed me anything, it’s that people really care and want to get involved – they might just be waiting for you to show them the right opportunity.

A Day On (a guest post by Patrice)

This weekend and on Monday, January 21, communities all across the country will come together to respond to this simple, yet complex question, “What are you doing for others?”  This question, posed by Dr. Martin Luther King as one of life’s key and most pertinent questions, has turned into a day of action to honor his life and provide opportunities for volunteering.

MLK DAy of Service Logo

Some members of the Volunteer Maryland Support Team will join The Volunteer Center Serving Howard County by helping with a canned food drive, donating blood, and creating cards for service members.  Others will join volunteers in Anne Arundel County to help clean the grounds of Historic Londontown.  Kelly MacBride-Gill, one of Volunteer Maryland’s Peer Leaders will join hundreds of volunteers gathered in Washington, DC on January 19, 2013 to pack 100,000 care kits filled with necessities for U.S. Service Members, Wounded Warriors, Veterans and First Responders.  Project organizer, Points of Light, hopes to link the vision of Dr. King with inauguration events and engage political leaders, celebrities and the community in service and dialogue.

It is not too late to join this national day/weekend of service!  To get started, go to mlkday.gov for a searchable database of opportunities to serve right in your own community.  Join hundreds of thousands of folks just like you doing service.  And maybe this one day of service will turn into many.  See you out there.

Mock on, March on!

In my last post, I wrote about us denting the universe with service.  Well, like thousands of other people, I spent Martin Luther King, Jr. Day “on” rather than “off.”  I woke up at 6:00am, did my usual snow-angel stretch, got dressed like any other work day, and was out the door by 7:30am.  I was looking forward to the crisp morning and participating in the first mock freedom march in Caroline County.

Students, educators, and community members arrived bright and early to march from the Caroline County Courthouse to the Parks and Recreation center. The purpose of this event was to remember what Martin Luther King, Jr. (and many others) started in the mid 1950s for global and domestic civil rights, and to also educate younger generations about this important part of American history.  Although I could not feel my toes, I enjoyed holding the hand of an eight year old girl and answering her questions about who Martin Luther King, Jr. was and why we were marching…specifically in the cold.  Nevertheless, we made it to the community center for the second part of the event.

At the community center, volunteers had set up a dozen stations for participants to visit.  Since I have a background in Black studies, I was placed in the “Reflections” room, that contained many photos of Dr. King, Rosa Parks, and history of Black voting rights (and prohibitions).  I am a history buff, which is why I jumped at the chance to volunteer for this event.  I was like a little kid in candy store!  Another reason I love service, you get to work within your interests and share them with others.

What did you do for MLK Day?

Every day is MLK Service Day at the Y-M-C-A

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.