Post submitted by Hyacinth Alvaran, HRC Senior Diversity Program Manager. Many thanks to Janna Strain, HRC Diversity Program Temp, for her contribution.

As HRC marks Black History Month, we reflect on our work on Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service and the opportunities that lay ahead to help communities in need across the nation.

On and around Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, hundreds of HRC volunteers, partners, and allies participated nationally and locally in a very successful MLK Day of Service. It could not have been possible without the heart and dedication of HRC leaders in over 20 cities across the country. The Day of Service and the months leading up to it was a transformative experience for many of them. They share their reflections below.


MLK DOS Phoenix

“MLK Day of Service was both crazy, and amazing.  We had so many volunteers show up ready to work!  We ran into some snags that required an unexpected run to Home Depot for primer, but we did it! We painted the trans* flag on one of the walls of Rebel & Divine United Church of Christ, and it came out fantastic! Also, our local Coca-Cola sponsors worked with us for a long time, sorting clothing as they set up a safe space for trans* and genderqueer youth to try on compression shirts, wigs, make-up, clothing, etc. Our volunteers enjoying themselves, including a large group of teens from the Boys & Girls Club too! The temporary name of this safe space is "I Have a Dream Boutique."  Between now and the true grand opening in March, the youth of Rebel & Divine will come up with their own suggestions and vote on the name that the boutique will be known as moving forward.”  —Eliana Morrison, Phoenix, AZ


“One of my favorite MLK quotes is that ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’" It always motivates me to help others no matter how they may be different from me, young or old, black or white, gay or straight. That is what our MLK Day of Service was all about: people coming together to help others regardless of their differences. Our day of service was inspiring because people gave up a beautiful and abnormally warm winter Saturday to come together for homeless kids. When supplies got low, many called friends and family to ask them contribute, and others ran out to ensure that we completed 10 kits to get homeless youth off to a great start in new homes. Our volunteers left with a sense of pride, knowing they had made a difference in the life of a young person.”—Kendra Johnson, Little Rock, AR


MLK DOS San diego

“At HRC San Diego’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, over 100 volunteers filled over 1,000 care bags for homeless youth in our local community. The outpour of generosity was overwhelming, and we were grateful to have Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins address the volunteers and help us fill care bags for the 2nd year in a row.   These necessities were donated to the San Diego Youth Services Storefront Program, which serves as an emergency shelter for homeless, runaway, and sexually exploited youth ages 12-17 years old. According to Carly Graber, the San Diego Youth Services Storefront Coordinator, ‘When I walked into the HRC MLK Jr. Day of Service Event, I was overwhelmed by the generosity and compassion of the HRC San Diego Steering Committee and community volunteers.  Tables upon tables of donated supplies were being packed by numerous individuals, providing San Diego Youth Services’ Storefront Youth Emergency Shelter with 1,000 care bags which will help meet the basic needs of nearly half of the youth connected with our street outreach efforts for the upcoming year!’ We are so grateful to the HRC members who took valuable time out of their holiday to make a significant impact on the health and well-being of youth experiencing homelessness in San Diego.”  —Geri Rochino, San Diego, CA

"Thank you to everyone who came out yesterday to help re-vamp The LGBTQ Center Long Beach's Youth Services room! We painted, built new furniture, hung shelves, and re-decorated their space. The youth who utilize the room like the new look of the space! They express their thanks and appreciation. Go Team!"—Carin Jacobs, Long Beach, CA


“Having been raised in the South, I'm extremely humbled by the Colorado community's outpouring of love and support for Dr. King's message of service to others. I am so grateful for the overwhelming response we received to our call to action. Sharing this day of service with Rainbow Alley was a phenomenal way to honor Dr. King's legacy. I pray that we will continue to forge new friendships, build new bridges, and make new connections through this and other events like it!”  —Darren Smith, Denver, CO


“MLK Day of Service was an incredible success in South Florida. We were able to provide so many donations to SunServe. My volunteers were absolutely incredible. So many people stepped up to provide additional items for MLK DOS. I was so touched by the generosity of my fellow Floridians.  Everyone was so appreciative! I am so grateful to take part. I can't imagine a more well-spent day. Dr. King's spirit was alive and well in South Florida.”  —Nik Harris, Ft. Lauderdale, FL


MLK DOS Atlanta

“All of our HRC projects in Atlanta to commemorate Dr. King have been so meaningful this weekend, from the clothing drive Saturday, to the Rustin/ Lorde Breakfast, and the annual march and rally.  It was especially enriching to meet and interact with so many people who find meaning in serving others.”  —Molly Simmons, Atlanta, GA

“The MLK Day of Service weekend was a powerful reminder that as much as we are different we are all very much alike.” —Melinda Greene, Atlanta, GA


“Organizing our annual MLK Day of Service in Chicago is a rewarding experience.  It is inspiring to see how the Chicago LGBT and Ally communities strive to help improve the lives of some of our most vulnerable members.  While the dedicated staff and funders of the Broadway Youth Center (BYC) are working to improve the lives of Chicago’s homeless and housing-unstable LGBT youth on a daily basis, we hope that the items donated through the MLK Day of Service will help BYC to be able to spend its precious resources in other needed areas.  Last year, our donations to BYC lasted over nine months.  This year, we hope those donations go even further!  Thanks to everyone in the Chicago community who were able to generously donate needed items or their time to help make our MLK Day of Service a success for the Broadway Youth Center.”  —Daniel Lange, Chicago, IL


“The HRC Twin Cities Steering Committee organized and executed a wonderful Day of Service. We had three projects throughout the day: sorting of donated care items, cleaning projects at Avenues for Homeless Youth, and serving a meal at both Avenues and the Bridge for Youth. At Avenues, we had about 15 volunteers throughout the day, and at the Bridge for Youth, there were eight volunteers. Overall, I thought the day ran pretty smoothly, at least on my end! All of the volunteers and Melissa, the community engagement manager at Avenues, said that they had a really good time.”  —Kyle Smestad, Twin Cities, MN



“HRC Nebraska sends a huge thank you out to the many volunteers who helped to make our Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service a success! Throughout the week, we collected donations from the community for homeless and runaway youth in the Omaha metro area, and we delivered those to the YES Youth Street Outreach center. At the street outreach center, almost 20 HRC Nebraska volunteers helped to prepare food, sort donations, clean the facility, and more. The outreach center staff was kind enough to give us a tour, provide information about local homelessness, and answer thoughtful questions. Thank you especially to Youth Emergency Services for providing this opportunity for us to give back to our community!”  —Drew Heckman, Omaha, NE

New York

“January has come to be one of my favorite months of the year, primarily because of MLK Day of Service. The Greater New York Steering Committee had the opportunity to once again join forces with Hetrick Martin Institute and Alcoa to create care packs for our city’s LGBT homeless youth. For our third year, with the assistance of about 25 volunteers and donations of care items from local members and companies, we were able to create 500 care packages that the HMI Field Team will distributed to youth around the city; hopefully providing a bit of warmth during these colder months.”  —Britni Jackson, New York, NY


MLK DOS Columbus

“We had a very successful day, and it was one that touched a lot of hearts. Our very own Councilmember Phyllis Cleveland made an appearance, which is huge because she is trying to do everything she can in the city of Cleveland for transgender rights as well as for equality for the LGBT community. A highlight for me was when a transgender member of our community came up to me and asked if they could have a backpack and gather some things for themselves. They seemed shy about asking, and asked me in private. I just gave them a hug and told them, ‘You go right ahead. This is a non-judgmental zone and you are safe here.’ Overall, the kids we served had fun, they were warm, and they were safe, and that was the best part.”  —Kyle Lewis, Cleveland, OH

“We had an amazing event.  We served about 70 trans teens and homeless LGBT kids. At the Aids Task Force, we set up our boutique and wig shop.  It's was a great success. The Movement in Black team served food and had a dance party, and MetroHeath came with the mobile healthcare RV and signed kids up for health insurance. Equality Ohio, LGBT Center of Cleveland, PFLAG, and Belfaire Children's Home attended and donated goods. Our second team of volunteers with the Aids Task Force downtown and set up a HIV testing center: they provided free testing for over 70 today: three times their usual intake. We had over 70 wigs and hair pieces donated with a team helping the kids get fitted – it was amazing. We left crying and filled with pride. We’re already planning for next year!  Huge success!  And knowing that what we did will last these kids a long time is amazing.”  —Char Ligo, Cleveland, OH

“HRC MLK Day of Service ROCKED it out in Cincinnati! So proud of each and every 85 of the volunteers who assembled 875 care bags of hygiene products!!! Thank you Lighthouse Youth Services and HRC Members! Each bag supports homeless youth.” —Kristin Shrimplin, Cincinnati, OH

“In addition to hundreds of dollars in donations for clothing, food, hygiene items and fun stuff, the youth who utilize the Center will find it cleaner and nicely painted, thanks to our Steering Committee volunteers. A fun and rewarding day!”  —Kathy Bowman, Columbus, OH


“I was so overwhelmed by everything.  This was the most successful MLK Day of Service since we started doing this a few years ago.  I am so thankful for the other members of the HRC Portland Steering Committee and family that stepped up in so many ways, such as the partners at Q Center and SMYRC. We had over 125 volunteers and so many new conversations in the community about LGBT homeless youth.”  —Gregg Moreland, Portland, OR


MLK Houston

“We had close to 100 volunteers throughout the day. Even a group of children from the local Boys and Girls Club! We stuffed 75 bags with toiletries, water bottles, ponchos and hand warmers. They have the extra bags for the youth. Each bag got a couple of note cards that told the recipient that they had someone on their side -- that people care about them. Donated items were also sorted and categorized as well. That way, the youth can go “shopping” during their visits to Montrose Grace Place. Finally, we painted the group room, and it looks much brighter now! It was an amazing day, due to so much good energy in the space and new relationships formed!”  —Lou Weaver, Houston, TX

“We had the best day at Roy Maas Youth Alternatives! There were around 25 volunteers who showed up, and we were able to complete our list of projects, plus additional projects that we didn't think that we'd have time to accomplish. In addition, we spent time painting birdhouses with the kids and enjoyed lunch with the staff, kids, and volunteers. Again, I'd have to say this is our favorite event of the year.”  —Tonya Pacetti-Perkins, San Antonio, TX

“We had a great time volunteering having lunch, conversation and playing UNO with Promise House youth on MLK Day. Promise House embraces homeless, runaway and at-risk youth, giving them needed support, encouragement and hope to live a better life.”  —Jeff Strater, Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX

Filed under: Communities of Color

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