Wednesday, January 19, 2011

City Year Washington, DC MLK Day of Service

By Jenna Lykes, corps member serving on the CSX Civic Heroes Team

“An individual has not begun to live until he can rise above the narrow horizons of his particular individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. Every person must decide, at some point, whether they will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?’”

- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., August 11, 1957

This past Monday in historic Anacostia, nearly 1,000 people gathered in an attempt to answer Dr. King's compelling question. City Year corps members led volunteers who served at 5 local sites, which included three schools- Ketcham Elementary School, Kramer Middle School and The Academies at Anacostia, and two community centers- House DC and The Children's Center, which provide kids with positive places to spend their after school hours. The day started off with an inspiring opening program, where featured speakers included Mayor Gray, John Gomperts, Director of AmeriCorps, Julie Cummings, Board Member of The Corporation for Community and National Service, Kwame Simmons, Principal of Kramer Middle School, and Cindy Hallberlin, President and CEO of Gifts in Kind International. Later we had the distinct honor of hosting U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his family.

Together, We:
  • Painted over 200 inspirational and beautiful murals
  • Organized 450 emergency kits to distribute to homeless people
  • Built garden beds which, come spring, will house plants, herbs and vegetables, and provide hands on experience for high school students
  •  Made 900 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for people in need  
  •  Pieced together a colorful mosaic that proudly depicts our city's skyline
  • Constructed 16 cubbies and bookshelves, providing sorely needed storage and organization
  •  Collected enough coats to keep more than 200 people at least a little warmer this winter

In short, we spent our day answering Dr. King's call to arms.

In the afternoon, we watched as 115 Young Heroes and 20 Junior Team Leaders  swore to commit the next 6 months of their lives  to serving their communities. It was a fitting end to a day dedicated to Dr. King's life, work and legacy.

Together, we accomplished a lot on Monday. However, I believe the real power of the day was its ability to inspire us all to keep serving and keep doing for others, well beyond an annual holiday.

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