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This post submitted by Hyacinth Alvaran, HRC Diversity Program Associate, and Daniela Cangelosi, HRC Diversity Intern

Each year, individuals and communities come together to volunteer their time in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and support his vision of a beloved community.

Coinciding with the Presidential Inauguration on January 21, HRC held its very first MLK Day of Service activities in partnership with nine service agencies in eight cities to support LGBT homeless youth. While the LGBT popluation is estimated at 3 percent to 5 percent of the U.S. population, studies indicate that as much as 40 percent of homeless and at-risk youth are LGBT.   Most LGBT youth cite family rejection as the number one reason for their homelessness.  It's a sobering reminder that while our march to full equality is happening at a rapid pace these last few years, there is still much work to be done to protect the most vulnerable in our community. 

We were proud to partner with Lifeworks (Austin), the Montrose Center (Houston), the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center (Los Angeles), the Hetrick-Martin Institute (New York City), one n ten(Phoenix), SMYRC and Q Center (Portland), Larkin Street Youth Services (San Francisco), and Transgender Health Empowerment’s Wanda Alston House (Washington, D.C.). Additionally, HRC will partner with Covenant House in New Orleans on February 14 and 15.

Leading up to January 21st, hundreds of HRC members & supporters joined with 30 business and community organizations to organize donation drives of thousands of personal care items, winter accessories, school supplies, and other essentials. This past week, approximately 700 volunteers assembled about 1,600 care bags for LGBT homeless youth.  Volunteers also provided much-needed support to organize donated items at emergency shelters and drop-in centers. 

HRC is truly thankful for the time, care and resources that our members, supporters and partners generously contributed to this collaborative effort.  Volunteers felt energized and engaged and hungry for more opportunities to serve their communities. They echoed Dr. King’s sentiment that “human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires… passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

Below are some reflections of some of these dedicated individuals:

From Washington, D.C.: "I have never seen anything so extraordinary, as dozens of strangers pulling money out of their pockets to buy more items and more bags after 175 care bags of donated items had already been assembled, and then forming teams and friendships out of a shared desire to serve. They teamed up to make runs to buy more bags and more supplies, until the facility was filled with so many donated items, there was barely room to navigate the space. In those moments, compassion became tangible."

Roxanne Goldberg, Political & Community Outreach Co-Chair of the HRC Greater Washington, D.C. Steering Committee


From Austin, TX: “Though the care kits they assembled are greatly needed, the real gift these volunteers gave our LGBTQ youth was showing them that people care about their well-being and their future. We are honored to be a part of this experience and work each day to help those struggling LGBTQ youth and other vulnerable members of our community advance to a life of success and self-sufficiency."

Brett Barnes, LifeWork’s Director of Development and External Relations


From Phoenix, AZ: "It was very important to me to volunteer for MLK Day of Service because I want to make a difference. I also hope to work with LGBTQ youth and open a homeless shelter for them. My girlfriend was homeless for a while, and it was scary not knowing where she would be next. So volunteering was the least I could do to begin my journey as an activist for human rights."

Crystal Zarragoza, Volunteer


From Houston, TX:

“This day created an opportunity for my son to see equality, unity, and people of every background working to move the ‘dream’ forward.”

George Davidson and McKevly Barnett, Volunteers

“HRC Houston partnered with The Montrose Center and the HATCH Youth Center. More than 60 people came together to donate items, assemble backpacks, and paint rooms, all to support the outreach and support homeless LGBT youth. I can't remember ever feeling better about the true meaning of what Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life was about."

Paul Guillory, Diversity Co-Chair of the HRC Houston Steering Committee


From Portland, OR:

“The response to requests for donated items and volunteers for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service event was overwhelming!  It was so amazing to see an entire community come together to help LGBT homeless youth.  This was so much more than a success!  We created something that will continue helping for a long time.”

Gregg Moreland, Political Co-chair of the HRC Portland Steering Committee

“This was a fantastic effort attended by people from the greater Portland community.  For many this was their first exposure to HRC… Parents brought their children to learn the lesson of community service.”

Linda Brown,Board Member and Diversity Co-chair of the HRC Portland Steering Committee


From Los Angeles, CA: “It was just really awesome! I think this was the best event to start off the year for me. I am so proud of our volunteers and appreciate each one of them for their commitment and dedication to helping.” – Carmen Salgado,Board Member and Steering Committee Co-Chair of the HRC Los Angeles Steering Committee


From New York, NY: “It was an honor to team up with Hetrick-Martin Institute, Alcoa, and all of our amazing volunteers. Seeing such a diverse array of individuals join forces to serve our homeless youth proves that service is the ultimate unifying dynamic. Our differences don't matter when we come together to work towards a greater cause. As Martin Luther King, Jr. himself said, ‘Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.’” – Britni Jackson, Diversity Co-Chair of the HRC Greater New York Steering Committee

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