MLK Day of Service

Posted by Katherine | January 20, 2009 – 12:06 pm

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for
[rhondawinter / Flickr]

The homemade sign above inspired volunteers at a neighborhood work party in the Bayview District of San Francisco — photographed by rhondawinter.

Since the election, Obama has been trying to figure out how to transform the volunteerism that propelled his campaign into national service to “rebuild America.” And, as in the campaign, he wants to use the web to do it. For MLK Day, his team organized an internet-driven Day of Service. Today’s imminent inaugural address will likely expand on the theme.

Yesterday, people across the country took all sorts of steps — from crafting a homemade PSA to picking up trash — to make life in their communities a little better.

John Duke (aka mikecousy?) is a night owl from New Jersey. He did a solo service project:

I couldn’t do anything with any organization since I acted too late so I had to go rogue and do something myself. So I went up to the elementary school up the road to clean up some of the graffiti on the playground. With an eraser (thanks google for that info on how to clean) here is what I did…

A pottery enthusiast — Potter’s Journal — took Michelle Obama’s advice and checked usaservice.org but could only find blood drives nearby. Since he’s “needle phobic to the max,” he and his daughter Zina, also figured out their own plan. They spent the day with two kids:

I called Zina and we decided to have our own private day of service. I took Gabriel and she took his older sister Juniper for the day. Their single mom didn’t get the day off but had to take a bunch of mentally ill folks on a field trip to Provo so we took her kids and spent the day playing with them. Zina and Jun went out to Zina’s place to clean house and make stuff like cookies and cross stitch. Gaabriel and I went to the museum to see the mammoth bones there. It was a blast. After the museum we dropped by Jock Jones place and watched him work on chairs. After a bit Jock finished the chair he was working on and made a small baseball bat on the lathe for Gabe. He was like to be the grandest tiger in the jungle. Jock’s wife Bonnie came in with fresh hot bread, butter and local honey. We about popped because we ate so much.

After that we went sledding on the flat road going up to Canal Canyon. It was a great MLK day.

Dorothy.baker was at RFK stadium in DC, where people put together packages for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Putting together packages for troops
[dorothy.baker / Flickr]

Joanne was at RFK, too, with her friend Theresa:

The real volunteers, who were organizing all of us, kept thanking us over and over again for coming, yet we felt like we barely did anything! They deserved the thanks! We showed up for our designated 1 hr. shift to make repeated passes through an assembly line like trick or treaters on Halloween, acquiring the designated contents from volunteers, sealing our bags shut, and returning to the end of the line to do it again. Our volunteer leaders asked us each to do at least 5 bags so that they could meet the goal of 75,000 bags by the end of the day. After we filled 5 bags, we headed over to the letter writing station to write thank you notes to the soldiers.

It was nice not only to be helping in a small way, but to be involved with a volunteer effort that recognizes the sacrifices our service men and women are making on behalf of all of us. These wars have been going on for years, and I’m ashamed to say that this is the first time I’ve done anything aside from donate money to help support the troops. It’s nice to see the President-Elect calling for everyone to take responsibility and participate in making this country a better place. He may have Messiah status, but he can’t do it alone.

Lartemis seems to have, in a frenzy of knitting, made hats for three lucky people:

Homemade hats
[lartemis / Flickr]

Iberostar from Albuquerque volunteered at a local food bank.

I have to say I’ve never seen so many cans of green beans in my life. I volunteered for food sorting at a location of Storewest - a food distribution center and office. I joined a group of people who were sorting bags and boxes of donated food. There were about six adults and a mom with three kids in a big garage with labeled boxes.

When people donate food, they just put everything in a box and turn it in. All the food needs to be sorted so that other volunteers can use those foods to fill a box for a local hungry family who needs assistance.

I’ve been there myself in the late 60s getting free food from the state of Arizona to feed myself and my son. […] I was happily able to get a job and get off the food program, but I’ll never forget the time I needed it. […]

The kids who were working there were enthusiastic and happy to sort foods. They also labeled boxes and took the finsihed boxes to the holding area. They offered to take items and find a place for them - their energy was awesome - they were still there when I left after four hours. It was so good to see them participate.

In a land of so much food, no one should go hungry.

Some people painted. DG-rad, who blogs about Anacostia in DC, recorded these young women transforming lockers.

Painting lockers
[DG-rad / Flickr]

An interfaith group in San Diego cleared brush in Balboa Park. Matthew Parker caught the volunteers working together:

Cleaning up park
[Matthew San Diego / Flickr]

Massage therapist Larry Swanson in Seattle served by thinking about how to serve all year:

I don’t have all of the details worked out yet, but here’s the basic idea.

I am committing two hours a week this year to helping activists, non-profits, and charities promote themselves online. I may also offer my services to artisans, artists, and musicians, but for now I’ll focus on the non-profit world.

I plan to spend one hour a week for the next month or two listening to directors of, and marketing and outreach staff for, small, Seattle-based non-profits to assess what they need and learn how I can best serve them.

The other hour each week will be for implementation (e.g., I just registered domain names for Seattle Empty Bowls).

Osstvocations recorded a bunch of young men explaining what community service has meant to them:

By the sound of it, some of them may continue their service over the next year, too.

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