Many will be honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday – the federal holiday in his honor – by giving back to their communities.
In 1994, 11 years after the MLK holiday began – Congress declared it a national day of service, encouraging Americans to honor King’s legacy by volunteering their time for worthy causes.
Organizers of a clean-up event at Odd Fellows Cemetery are hoping that local residents choose to spend their day off work to revitalize one of the city’s oldest African American cemeteries.
Members of local fraternities, sororities and faith-based organizations will join representatives from Northwest Piedmont Service Corps, the Gracen Foundation, Morris L. Slaughter American Legion Post #128, Greater North Carolina Buffalo Soldiers, Boy Scout Troop #718 for the clean-up, which will be held from 8-11 a.m. at the 2881 Shorefair Drive cemetery.
Linwood Skinner of the Northwest Piedmont Service Corps said more help is needed. Volunteers just need to come dressed for yard work; tools will be provided. Skinner said local residents have shown up in force for past clean-ups. He is hoping the same will be true Monday.
“We’ve had a great turnout with different organizations, different types of people. We’ve had young to
the old,” he said. “Not only are they giving back and volunteering and helping service-wise, but they’re learning also about the cemetery and the history of it.”
HandsOn Northwest North Carolina will again enlist an army of volunteers to help it stage its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Read-In.
On Saturday, about 100 children ages 4-10 will each be matched with a volunteer “service buddy” who will take them around to 14 different learning stations. The kids will not only read at these stations, but also learn life lessons. Wiley Middle School students, for example, will man a station that teaches the downside of bullying.
The Read-In was first held at the Benton Convention Center on MLK Day as a companion piece for kids to the popular MLK Noon Hour Commemoration. It is now held at Wake Forest University’s Benson University Center on the Saturday before the holiday, as to not compete with other MLK events, according to Amy Lytle, executive director of HandsOn, a non-profit that encourages volunteerism.
Children from Forest Park Elementary School and El Buen Pastor Latino Community Services will be among those on hand for the Read-In, which requires pre-registration. Most of the volunteers are students at Salem College, Winton-Salem State University and Wake Forest University.
Sydney Crouch is volunteering her time to oversee the college volunteers. The Ohio native and recent DePauw University grad is an AmeriCorps Vista volunteer working on school dropout prevention at the United Way of Forsyth County. She said the Read-In was a great way to get to know the community.
“I know when I was in school there was a big gap between the community and university, and I always wanted to connect those lines,” said Crouch. “And so I think it’s great for college students to work with the community, and meeting a child actually living here is a great way to do it.”
For the first time this year, college student volunteers conceived of most of the ideas for the Read-In’s learning stations. WSSU sophomore Adreanna Williams will be helping to run a station that she helped develop. It asks kids to draw pictures of iconic Civil Rights events like the Greensboro Four sit-in using colors that they feel best express the emotion of the event.
“Ever since I was a kid, I liked giving back to my community. I’ve always been one of those that felt like if God has left me with so much, I should be able to give back a little,” said Williams, who has taken advantage of many campus volunteer opportunities.
Not all the Read-in volunteers are college students. Community volunteers and local Jaycees will lend a hand. Sarah Jackson and the members of the mentoring program Girl Talk Triad Chapter will run the registration table. Some of the high school students mentored by the chapter will volunteer as well.
“We decided because Martin Luther King Day, and the whole Black History Month in February, is important, and in order for us to keep it an important day and an important month, we, as African-American people, need to participate,” said Jackson.
Limited space is available for children who want to come to the Read-In. Registration information is available by calling HandsOn at 336-724-2866 before noon on Friday.