Taking place each year on the third Monday in January, the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service is a federal holiday that is observed as a national day of service – a “day on, not a day off.” On Monday, January 17th, 2011, nearly 200 Kalamazoo County residents contributed in strengthening our community by getting involved, volunteering, and serving in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s honor.
The event brought people of all different ages, backgrounds and demographics together to battle challenges such as poverty, economic insecurity, illiteracy, hunger, environmental degradation, and more. Over 18 organizations in Kalamazoo and its surrounding cities were involved in offering more than 25 different projects for the event, allowing volunteers the chance to get involved and to choose an opportunity that they were passionate about.
All types of service opportunities were available for the Martin Luther King Jr. Event., and the projects varied greatly throughout the community. There were opportunities such as preparing, serving and delivering meals, painting and refurbishing schools and community centers, fire prevention and safety canvassing, cleaning neighborhoods, reading to children, and much more.
El Sol offered volunteer’s the opportunity to come in and read to their elementary school students. The school received a great turn-out of over 13 volunteers, with the majority of them being youth ages 11-13 years old. The volunteers not only read to the students, but were also able to serve as mentors and resources. “The 6th grade volunteers gave advice to our El Sol 5th graders about going into middle school next year and how to know where to go for lunch, it was great” – Kelly Alvarez, El Sol Elementary.
Many service projects connected the life and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and included time to reflect upon his visions and missions. MLK Westwood Elementary had volunteers come in and help their students create a Martin Luther King banner in memory of his devotion to advancing equality, social justice, and opportunity for all.
A few individuals become so empowered by serving on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service that they chose to continue their volunteerism beyond just the Holiday. Kathy Silva from Curious Kids Childcare had two volunteers who participated in the event on Monday and before they left that afternoon, the pair had already signed up to come back and continue volunteering that very same week. By making service part of our daily lives, we can help to continue Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dreams of justice and equality.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s teachings can continue to guide us in addressing our community’s most pressing social needs. He challenged us to build a more perfect union and taught us that everyone has a role to play in making America what it ought to be. The MLK Day of Service helped to empower individuals across the Kalamazoo area and strengthen our community as a whole. What can you do to help bridge barriers and address the social problems that are affecting our community today?
To make service a focus on any day, week, month or year, visit our website for hundreds of opportunities to get involved at volunteerkalamazoo.org or contact the Volunteer Center of Greater Kalamazoo at (269) 382-8350.