“How do I serve thee? Let me count the ways.” Even though Elizabeth Barrett Browning might be rolling in her grave as I alter her famous words of poetry, these words perfectly capture the spirit of Washington County’s 2nd Annual MLK Day of Service and Celebration.
Volunteer Washington County, which is hosting this event Monday to honor Dr. King’s legacy of service to others, is seeking to engage every person in our community in some form of volunteer service. For that reason, VWC is hosting myriad programs on MLK Day, with the hope that everybody will be able to find at least one volunteer project that is meaningful and rewarding.
Prior to the actual day of service, Volunteer Washington County would like to invite area religious affiliations, civic clubs, service organizations and nonprofit agencies to celebrate King’s tremendous legacy by participating in America’s Sunday Supper. The Sunday Supper, from 4 to 6 p.m. today at Memorial Recreation Center, is an opportunity for individuals to come together, share a meal and discuss King’s call to service.
At the Sunday Supper, people can ponder this challenging question, envision responses and share thoughts on building a strong, healthy and engaged community through service to others. Research indicates that individuals are more likely to follow through with their intentions to volunteer if they share their desire to get involved with another person.
If you’re ready to volunteer on MLK Day, browse VWC’s website, on which 534 nonprofit organizations list volunteer opportunities, and submit your application from our website directly to the organization with which you want to volunteer. Sixteen area nonprofit organizations list at least one volunteer service project specifically for MLK Day, and 46 businesses, nonprofits and government agencies have contacted VWC to share their talents, time and treasures to support these efforts.
Another way to get involved and to be of service to your community on MLK Day is to help protect the environment by responsibly recycling old electronic equipment. Last year, VWC and its partners collected and recycled more than 10,000 pounds of electronics. A list of items that will be accepted for recycling and the location and times to drop off these items can be found on VWC’s website.
Volunteer Washington County is especially keen on involving youth in our annual MLK Day of Service and Celebration because research indicates that the younger people are when they have their first positive volunteer experience, the more likely they are to be lifelong volunteers. VWC wants to tap the potential of our youth and develop a sustainable pool of volunteer leaders for years to come. For this reason, four MLK Day programs are geared toward students. VWC hosted an MLK Day of Service Art and Poetry Contest in partnership with Washington County Public Schools and the Washington County Arts Council for high school students. Winners will be announced on MLK Day. VWC is sponsoring shoe-recycling and crayon-recycling programs at the middle school and elementary levels. In addition, all students are invited to participate in the Vote Your Quote program, in which students reflect on King’s most influential words and vote for their favorite quote on our website.
Perhaps the most exciting activity during this year’s celebration is the much-anticipated MLK Day of Service Business Basketball Tournament, co-hosted by Memorial Recreation and VWC with Mayor David Gysberts as the honorary chair. This tournament was conceived as a way to engage youth in raising funds for a new outdoor basketball court, encourage volunteerism in response to King’s call to service, educate the public about the wonderful programs at Memorial Recreation and empower businesses and nonprofits to work together to strengthen our community.
The kids won’t be playing in the tournament. They will be volunteering in different capacities to make it a huge success. The youth are planning a ceremony to honor King before the final game.
King dreamed of a land where equality for all was a reality, where injustice was not tolerated, and where people of diverse backgrounds worked together for the common good. Although MLK Day is a federal holiday, VWC hopes you will join us in making it a day on, not a day off.
Bernadette Wagner is co-director of Volunteer Washington County.