Unification News for February 2005

MLK Day of Service 2005

In our second year of Martin Luther King Day of Service programming, Service For Peace emerged as a lead agency promoting the Day. We conducted 57 service projects in 21 cities that mobilized over 5,050 volunteers, up from 1,100 in 2004. Of course, this was but part of a much larger partnership that brought hundreds of thousands of Americans out to volunteer.

An important focus this year was the effort to develop of sustainable programs that would motivate continuous volunteer commitment. In publications and public service announcements, we asked people to make a promise not to just celebrate "I have a dream," and then put it behind them until next year, but to stand up and be counted for service and community building the year round. In Oakland, Deputy Chief of Police Michael Holland echoed this theme, saying "In a way, I almost wish we didn't have a holiday, if it just encourages people to take a day on and the rest of the year off." With so much to do, one day is clearly not enough!

Healthy partnerships of adult and youth leaders proved to be a very important initiative in the weeks before the Day of Service. Each city had a team that met several times to create age-appropriate materials and educational activities, plan volunteer recruitment and marshal local resources. A short video biography of Dr. King, with excerpts of the PBS documentary "Eyes on The Prize" reminded participants of the value of perseverance and long term commitment.

As one measure of a new commitment to ongoing service, all participants were introduced to the President's Volunteer Service Award and encouraged to earn it in 2005. 60% of all volunteers said they wanted to come back for Martin Luther King Day 2006, and many indicated that they would join other service activities throughout the year. Some cities have already started planning their MLK 2006 celebration.

Thanks to the involvement of hundreds of community partners, this year's volunteer pool was incredibly diverse. Our program in Bridgeport, for example, reported volunteers from China, Nepal, Jordan, Japan, Korea, the Ukraine and several African and Caribbean nations, as well as a representative mix of African American, Hispanic and Caucasian volunteers from the local community. Across the country, volunteers came from over 30 national backgrounds.

Service For Peace projects were chosen for sub-grants by all four of the Corporation For National and Community Service's MLK Grant winners, with Hands On Network awarding six, The National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice and the Points Of Light Foundation three each, and one award from the California Service Corps. However, grant funding accounted for less than 16% of the overall investment in the day, thanks to aggressive leveraging and increased support from corporate and community partners.

One important lesson is that planning must start earlier! Even as we report these improved results of 2005 we have big plans for a much bigger impact in 2006. We will develop our network of participating schools and colleges and share best practices from this year. We will involve our King Day volunteers in other volunteer opportunities throughout the year, including other National Days Of Service and ongoing volunteer activities.

We also see great possibilities for expansion among the faith community including new sectors such as Muslim youth, and look to further develop city-wide participation along the lines of the successful model in Louisville, which included substantial corporate and civic involvement with both financial and volunteer support from the entire community. Our overall goal is to increase 10-fold the number of volunteers in 2006!

Louisville, KY

Over 500 youth and adult volunteers participated in 31 service projects for the 2nd Annual Greater Louisville Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Volunteers from Target, Office of Youth Development, Jewish Community Center assisted in cleaning the Wayside Christian Mission men's shelter, painting, move and organize furniture. Elsewhere, GE volunteers and young people from Youth Alive painted the facility and installed carpet. An 8th grade class knitted hats for hospital patients; and volunteers from Ford Motor visited a senior center.

Support from the business community played an important part in our success, and special thanks go to Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Insight Cable, Norton Healthcare, TARC & many others.

In the afternoon, 200 volunteers, partners and sponsors gathered at Union Station to celebrate the Day of Service. Louisville Police Chief Robert White, and other VIP's encouraged everybody to continue to volunteer throughout the year. A youth performing arts team wowed the crowd with their performance. The event was featured in the Courier Journal. covered by 4 TV and two radio stations and director Peter Hayes was interviewed on early morning TV.

Bridgeport, CT

251 volunteers from the University of Bridgeport and local non-profits including Habitat for Humanity, Astoria Park Health Care Center, Prospect House Homeless Shelter and Re-Entry Ministries kicked off the 3-week program ŚCelebrate, Serve, Learn and Honor.'

Student leaders identified mentoring underserved youth as the compelling issue that the ŚMLK Service Learning and Diversity Education Initiative' would address. Many students made a commitment to continue mentoring these youth in the Roosevelt Elementary School and Hall Elementary School. Additionally, some volunteers have taken on volunteer roles to support the GED course at the Salvation Army Drug Rehabilitation program in the Spring term.

The program was incredibly diverse, with African Americans, Caucasians and Hispanics joined by volunteers from China, Nepal, Jordan, Japan, Korea, the Caribbean, the Ukraine and Africa. These multi racial and multi ethnic teams vividly demonstrated Dr. King's dream of racial harmony. One participant from Japan, Tokuo Nishiwaki reported, "I was amazed that a simple task such as renovating an old building could bring people together."

Worcester, MA

110 volunteers braved snow and ice to work at five Worcester Housing Authority sites, home to 5,000 low income seniors, cleaning public areas like lounges, kitchens, windows and stairwells. For many of the volunteers it was the first time that they understood the loneliness and difficulty of the elderly. Kudos to the Burroughs YMCA who arrived in full force with a van full of inspired junior leaders, and Abby Kelley Foster Charter School who also widely encouraged the event with more than twenty of their students participating. Demola Ogunjobi said "when I saw kids registering to volunteer, I knew some of them could be faking for the MLK badges, but I decided I would be different, I would sign up to volunteer not for a badge."

"Little kids stood outside the room watching us paint; I was happy to think that I was doing something to make their life brighter," said another volunteer.

Jamie Pear, Site Director at Horizons for Homeless Children, the only non-profit in the state dedicated exclusively to meeting the needs of homeless children and their families, discussed ways volunteers could continue to give to their community through the PlaysSpace Programs.

Portland, ME

Our MLK Day activity started with planning sessions in November and December. We started a clothing drive in several high schools the first week of January, ran a full day of activities on the 17th and will conclude with a Read-In for elementary school children in after-school programs on the 27th. By the end of the month, we will have engaged between 70 and 100 volunteers, performed over 400 service hours and distributed books and clothing valued at over $4,000 to youth and teens throughout Southern Maine. This year, Service For Peace partnered with the NAACP, Thornton Academy Interact, UNE Rotoract, Preble Street Resources, New Beginnings and high school volunteer clubs from Cape Elizabeth, Freeport and Portland.

At reflection time, we asked , ŚWhat did you learn/realize from Dr. King's legacy as it relates to his values, his commitment to service, community and harmony?' Some of the replies‹"Having respect for someone can take you far;" "One person can make a difference;" "The odds against you matter much less than whether it's the right thing to do or not;" "Through service, you can really change a community;" and "More people believe in it than I thought."

Atlanta, GA

Service For Peace participated in the 11th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service with the King Center, Hands On Atlanta, and many others. On Justice Sunday we worked at the DeKalb County Sheriffs Office and Jail, where participants cooked, cleaned and labored to bring the meals to those in need. On MLK day we came together with Hands On Atlanta and Hosea Williams Feed the Hungry to bring the most out of the large communities of Atlanta.

In other projects, we cleaned and beautified the Midville Elementary School, saving the school an estimated 4,000 dollars and cleaned a community church in the heart of Atlanta along with residents and volunteers from Hands On Atlanta.

Over the weekend, high school students held their own conference to consider new non-violence concepts, strategies and initiatives that they will look to start in their own lives. Our ongoing PATHMAKERS program challenges today's youth to have a deep understanding and awareness of Dr. Kings values of non-violence.

Seattle, WA

Service for Peace joined City Year, Americorps, EarthCorps, & other volunteers in bringing out some 243 volunteers to brave the pouring rain to work on a number of environmentally oriented projects. One group worked with Seattle Parks & Trail Maintenance crews& City Year loading fresh gravel for trail restoration at Ravenna Park, an inner city park that serves primarily low-income and minority families. Our goal was to make it inviting and safe. Meanwhile, a larger group cleared non-native species and poured buckets of mulch for the freshly cleared hillside at Mount Baker Park. Funding for the Martin Luther King Day effort was assisted by a grant from the Hands On Network.

The Seattle program was one of several in the Northwest that were initiated and energized by the MLK Training Seminar held at Portland State University in Oregon in late October, that was presented jointly by Service For Peace and the Points of Light Foundation. As well as the MLK program, seminar graduates joined National Family Volunteer Day in November and are now planning events for National Youth Service Day in April.

Westchester, NY

Our program at the Yonkers Community Action Center raised an interesting dilemma. We were painting one room, and a group of businessmen from Kraft Foods were painting in another. The work was going well, but wasn't the whole point of King's vision to work together and not separately? Volunteers from both sides realized that this understanding had to start within each one of us if we were to be true peacemakers. One high school volunteer, James, was moved to see the effect the social worker assigned to the center had on the lives of the youth there. "They love her," he said, "Whenever she's not there, the kids almost panic and want to know where she is. That's how much she has impacted their lives."

A second program at Cambridge House Senior Center in Ossining on Hudson brought 40 high­school students face to face with seniors for a hard-hitting discussion about the civil rights era. We asked, how old were you when the Civil Rights Movement went on? What were the changes that you observed? What were your feelings about the segregation at that time? If you were racist, why? The day of service ended with both sides committed to further meetings.

Chicago, IL

100 volunteers honored Dr. King by beautifying two local elementary schools while finding beauty in one another's diversity. The emphasis was on the cooperation and exchange between groups of volunteers from Bass and Faulkner Elementary Schools, Kenwood Academy, Lincoln Park High School, Mt. Bethlehem M. B. Church , New Calvary M. B. Church, Chicago Family Church and students from the Service for Peace club at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Mr. Granzlee Banks, Principal of Bass Elementary and Dr. John Long of UIC shared briefly on different aspects of the legacy of Dr. King in service and leadership, and then the teams went out to paint murals and cleaning desks and other classroom furniture.

After lunch, time was taken to reflect on the day. Alisha Ratcliff,15, of the Mt. Bethlehem M. B. Church said that she had realized that "we wouldn't be where we are today if Dr. King Jr. hadn't stood up for what's right without giving up." And Karyn Panek, a 20-year-old student from UIC, commented that she felt she had made a difference in the community by "letting the kids open up to people they would never had met if it had not been for MLK Day."

Oakland, CA

We held a major community effort at the Eco Village Farm Learning Center, made possible by a grant from California Service Corps. Other partners included the East Bay Conservation Corps, Americorps and Operation Dignity. Among the several distinguished speakers were Congressman George Miller; the Deputy Chief of Police in Oakland Michael Holland, Michael Smith, Bay Area Director for Americorps.

The 150 volunteers then split into teams. The most popular job had us clean out the goat pen and chicken coops, laying down fresh chips for the animals. For our younger volunteers, there was a great chance to feed the animals and get to learn more about them.

The award-winning Eco Farm Learning Center brings out school groups to learn about watersheds, and the importance of protecting the environment. Brush was cleared away so that a platform could be built, and more of the creek life could be experienced by the children. Elsewhere, volunteers carefully removed the invasive ivy vines along the main trails, so that plant species native to the area could be replanted.

Harrisburg, PA

Students from the ACTS program and other community volunteers from several local churches, the Hindu Society of Harrisburg and several prominent local lawyer gathered at 8:30am to begin the cleaning up and painting of the William Penn High School The project was focused on painting and cleaning 8 bathrooms and the back of an auditorium used frequently to host gathering of the students and serve the community as well. A hallway covered with graffiti proved no match to the students who tackled this project with great enthusiasm. All the bathrooms were thoroughly cleaned and two were completely repainted. Happily, a number of volunteers agreed to come back to complete the work on a later date.

The adult volunteers were mightily impressed by the Penn school students who came in for nine full hours ‹ longer than a school day ‹ making their day off a day on. Though in recent years the Harrisburg schools have had more than their share of difficulties, the young students made a powerful case by their actions for the need for the community to pull together, a theme repeated in the annual Martin Luther King Day essay contest with more than 800 contestants.

Selma, AL

Our local affiliate CHASM provided safe places for children out of school at Valley Creek, Felix Heights and Rangedale Housing Authority while their parents worked on MLK Day. A Community Non-Violence Forum was held with the Owls Of Faith at an apartment complex located next to the Brown Chapel Church ­ the site for many civil rights meetings attended by Dr. King ­ to address the growing challenge of gun-violence, on the increase throughout 2004. Local volunteers also participated in events for Justice Sunday 2005.

Paterson, NJ

The annual city-wide food drive, in association with United Way and the CUMAC food-bank, was promoted through schools and colleges and faith based groups in Paterson. More than 200 volunteers including Americorps and the New Jersey Community Development Council involved in this effort, and some distributed leaflets and hand posters encouraging people to sign up for our ongoing tutoring program in the Paterson City schools.

Detroit, MI

Detroit Service For Peace began the year of service by visiting two Rescue Mission Ministries and taking gift bags for the children there. We were pleased to partner with a local college, the University Of Detroit and fifteen students of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

We were not able to take pictures of the children at the shelters because of client confidentiality. Something new that we ran into. But our volunteers had a great time putting the gift bags together and the rescue mission kids had a great time receiving them. Everyone was a winner!

Cary, NC

The MLK Cary Dreamfest weekend events started Friday with the One Song Musical Celebration where Service For Peace volunteered  giving out programs, and taking care of the entertainers. The next day was the Dream of Community Expo where SFP helped with organizing tables, giving out tickets, cleaning , and helping out. On King Day we went to one of our regular service sites, the Helping Hands Mission to work with youth and parents.

St. Louis, MO

On Sunday, January 16, 18 youth and 4 adults from St. Louis visited Pony Bird, a facility in Jefferson County, Missouri, that provides total care for severely disabled youth.. Missouri members of the American Family Coalition and Service for Peace toured Pony Bird's four on site facilities and entertained the residents with uplifting songs. Everyone joined in and all had a great time. One of the counselors remarked, "I haven't seen these kids so happy and excited in a long time!" Plans are being made for another visit in the near future.

Los Angeles, CA

Service For Peace volunteered for the third year with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department interfaith prayer breakfast, followed up with a community youth weekend. Ongoing plans include working with Project JADE and the Los Angeles Schools District J to raise young high school and college age leaders who can mentor middle and elementary youth in schools and at the Los Angeles schools farm projects.

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