MLK Day of Service: An Opportunity to Energize Communities in Service to Others

by HRC Staff

MLK Day of Service 2017 provided an opportunity for HRC volunteers and supporters around the country to transform Dr. King's life and teachings into community action, mobilizing around the national holiday making it a “day on, not a day off”.

Post Submitted by Helen Parshall, HRC Diversity & Inclusion Assistant

MLK Day of Service 2017 provided an opportunity for HRC volunteers and supporters around the country to transform Dr. King's life and teachings into community action, mobilizing around the national holiday making it a “day on, not a day off”.  

Around the country, people come together to  deepen their commitment and connection to those in our community who are too often at its margins. Each year, staff and volunteers spend months preparing for these projects, doing outreach to other organizations, collecting donations and building lasting partnerships within their local communities.

This year, 29 HRC steering committees and all three Project One America states  participated in the day of service. Many project leaders reported unexpectedly high turnout from local volunteers - a sure sign that people are hungry for ways to serve their communities.

Below, some HRC staff, steering committee members and volunteers share their reflections on what the day meant to them.

  • My participation in HRC's MLK Day of Service at the Bayard Rustin Community Center was incredibly rewarding. I was able to help prepare the future site of Montgomery's first LGBTQ resource center through hours of cleaning and yard work at the newly acquired building near downtown. Not only was I able to serve this community through acts, I also met and networked with amazing individuals working to provide mental health and social services to a long ignored community in my hometown. I strongly feel that this has laid the foundation for a continuing relationship with the community center. -Courtney Dixon, Alabama
  • As the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the cradle of the civil rights movement, Atlanta honors its native hero with a day unlike any other in the country. Approximately 150 people joined us to volunteer for our MLK Day of Service at Lost-n-Found Youth (LnF), breaking records for the annual service project. On MLK Day, our volunteers were welcomed with a brief orientation from HRC Atlanta’s Community Engagement team and Brad Thornton from LnF. The volunteers then broke into groups and cleaned the LnF thrift store, storage areas and office. They also assembled shelving and put together more than 50 care packages with donated toiletries, personal care items and canned foods. HRC Atlanta is proud to once again lead an MLK Day of Service and celebrate Dr. King’s legacy of service and commitment to community.  - Percy Brown, III, Atlanta
  • In Colorado we partnered with Urban Peak, a non-profit organization that provides extensive and comprehensive services to homeless and at-risk youth in our community. Monday turned out to be a snowy day, so we were thankful to be able to help provide hot meals to youth in need. In the morning we had volunteers join us in making eggs, hashbrowns, breakfast sausages and patties at Urban Peak's drop-in center. Later in the day, more volunteers stepped into the kitchen at Urban Peaks Shelter to prepare and serve burritos, mixed, vegetables, salad and fresh fruit. Thanks to our awesome volunteers, we provided meals to almost 100 youth on MLK Day! - Danica Shipley, Colorado
  • The Columbus Steering Committee partnered with the local chapter of GLSEN to support the OSU Star House on MLK Day of Service. The Star House is a safe drop-in center for homeless youth in need of integrated behavioral, social and health care services. Volunteers from both organizations joined together to organize hundreds of donations, provide resume and job services to the youth served, and donate nearly $1,000 worth of items in high demand at the facility. Thanks to these volunteers, the OSU Star House can continue to efficiently and effectively provide toiletries, clothing and other important resources. -Craig Diaz, Columbus
  • As part of HRC's MLK Day of Service, members of the Greater Washington DC Steering Committee of the HRC led approximately 40 volunteers to organize, clean, and generally spruce up the three locations of Casa Ruby, a shelter for LGBTQ youth. The morning began with a moving statement from Ruby Corado, thanking all the volunteers who had given up their holiday to be there.  She recounted her personal story and the history of the shelter she had founded so many years ago.  Greatly inspired, the volunteers worked hard.  At the end of the day, all three locations were in tip-top shape.  It felt good to do good for such a worthy cause. -Marguerite Sagatelian, Greater Washington D.C.
  • Members of HRC Greater Philadelphia proudly joined Greater Philadelphia’s Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service at William Way LGBT Community Center. William Way seeks to encourage, support and advocate for the well-being and acceptance of sexual and gender minorities through service, educational, recreational and cultural programming. Our group of volunteers assembled more than 1,000 safe-sex kits for distribution by the center. We were just some of the hundreds of volunteers who showed up to work on maintenance, civic and other service projects throughout the day. -Katherine Sprissler-Klein, Greater Philadelphia
  • HRC Houston selected Montrose Grace Place, Tony's Place and Bering Open Gate as our 2017 MLK Day of Service beneficiaries.  HRC members and friends were invited to purchase items on an Amazon Wish List and to donate at five Houston area locations.  This was an increase from the three drop off locations in 2016.  The donation drive ran from December 1 and ended onsite at Kindred Church, who donated the use of their space for our massive day of sorting and organizing as our day of service activity.  On January 16 we had over 90 volunteers show up to bring their donations and also sort and deliver the collected items.  Einstein's Bagels donated breakfast and Pepperoni's Pizza helped subsidize lunch by donating 10 of 25 pizzas we needed to feed the team.  We were so thankful to have Williams, GE Oil and Gas, and Halliburton as corporate partners that conducted donation drives at their offices and also brought volunteers to MLK Day. -Brad Odom Harris, Houston
  • In Kansas City, more than 100 volunteers participated in our MLK Day of Service.  As a partnership with the YMCA-Linwood, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and the Kansas City HRC Steering Committee, we were able to complete a number of projects with the help of our volunteers including packaging 75 personal care kits that were donated to a local homeless shelter, 100 paintings that will be given to the Ronald McDonald House of Kansas City, decorating and planting seeds in flower pots which will be given to the the Women's Shelter of KC, and a large jar full of positive messages for the LGBTQ youth of Passages/KCAVP.  We ended the day with a presentation entitled, "Communicating Respectively in a Diverse World."  We were grateful for the wonderful turnout which also included Kansas City, Missouri Mayor, Sly James. -Angela Cottrell, Kansas City
  • In honor of MLK Day, HRC Las Vegas and our amazing volunteers and supporters donated jackets, blankets and new socks. We came together to help and support our community partner, Community Counseling Center of Southern Nevada, with the much-needed items and support. -Jeremy Wallace, Las Vegas
  • HRC and Children's Hospital Los Angeles teamed up for another successful MLK Day of Service! More than 140 diverse volunteers made care packages with food and water and made safer sex packs. We also planted, decorated the reception for Valentine’s Day, wrote affirmation cards and Valentine's Day cards for the clients and patients, organized and cleaned all the reception areas, kitchen and conference rooms, created patient intake form packets and so much more! There were families of parents and children from babies in strollers to teenagers. There were AmeriCorps groups, sorority groups, student groups from USC & UCLA, UCLA football players, environmental groups, and of course, are tried-and-true HRC volunteers. Thank you all! I think Dr. King would be proud. -Sue LaVaccare, Los Angeles
  • HRC’s annual MLK Day of Service is a day that our staff and volunteers look forward to every year. Once again, we teamed up with the United Way of the Capital Area to collect travel sized toiletries such as soaps, shampoos and dental hygiene products for area homeless youth. These products are basic necessities for living and providing this type of support for those who don’t have the access is an important cause. I want to give special thanks to: Zeta Phi Beta Sorority--Nu Beta and Lambda Beta chapters, Dr. Jennifer Butler at Jackson State University’s Study Abroad students, and Millsaps College -Harry Hawkins, HRC Mississippi Field Organizer
  • HRC Nashville organized a project to benefit Nashville Cares for MLK Day of Service.  Nashville Cares provides support and services to those in the Nashville area affected by HIV & AIDS.  The project for Nashville Cares was to collect donations of toiletries items and bundle those items into kits that Nashville Cares will give to their clients. Community and volunteer response was tremendous!  More than 30 volunteers attended the event to create the toiletries kits and more than 90 kits were made.  Volunteers included individuals, as well as groups from Vanderbilt, the Nashville Sunday Assembly, the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps and members of the Nashville Steering Committee.  It was a lively mix of younger and older people intent on making a difference and helping the Nashville community. -Chuck Owen, Nashville
  • We are grateful for this bonding experience as a team and more importantly to provide toiletries bags for the homeless teens of South Louisiana.  A special thank you to Mike Glorioso of Cox Communications for spearheading the day of service, Cox Communications for providing the bags and their facility and X-Trainers for collecting abundant amount of donations at their holiday party. -Betty Pei Ching Sun, New Orleans
  • HRC Orlando was honored to host 30 passionate volunteers from around central Florida in honor of Dr. King's memory.  During HRC's annual MLK Day of Service, volunteers assembled donated items into new resident kits for LGBTQ youth in need of Zebra's services.The Zebra Coalition® is a network of organizations which provide services to LGBT and all youth ages 13 – 24. The Coalition assists young people facing homelessness; bullying; physical, sexual and drug abuse; and isolation from their families with individualized programs to guide them to recovery and stability. -Tony Sandonato, Orlando / Central FL
  • We had another amazing MLK Day of Service with Sanctuary Palm Springs. This year, we were joined by volunteers from AmeriCorp, allowing us to completely spruce up the Sanctuary home, which will soon be taking in residents. As a part of our day of service, we also presented Sanctuary with a check for $500 to help cover expenses for running the home. -Sam Messin, Palm Springs
  • HRC Portland's MLK Day of Service gathered more than 150 volunteers from a diverse list of community groups, corporate organizations and churches.  Our main activity hub was in the fellowship hall graciously donated by our community partner, Portland First Christian Church.  We assembled more than 100 care bags and still had an abundance of clothing, sleeping bags, and toiletries remaining.  All care bags and items were then transported to our two recipient organizations, New Avenues for Youth (NAFY) / Sexual & Gender Minority Youth Resource Center (SMYRC) and HomePlate Youth Services. At the church, pre-selected volunteers painted four pieces of art to be hung in new shelter spaces for both NAFY / SMYRC and HomePlate.  Common themes were "no place like HomePlate", community, nature, and art & music.  Other volunteers also wrote notes of encouragement for the homeless youth adorned with stickers and Hershey kisses. Four off site service projects mobilized a total of about 50 volunteers to deep clean, organize and paint.  Throughout the day, we had visits and speeches from Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler.  AG Rosenblum even made a donation to be used towards purchasing lockers for HomePlate. - Tony Beeler, Portland
  • MLK DOS 2017 HRC San Diego, more than 130 volunteers came together to assemble 500 care packages to give out to LGBTQ homeless youth served by San Diego Youth Services. The care packages each contained: lip balm, sunscreen, band-aids, toothbrushes, toothpaste, comb, condoms, lube, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, body soap, razors, nail clippers, tweezers, blankets, towel, granola bars, crackers. We had California State Senator Toni Atkins and Councilmen Chris Ward help us kick off the event. This event came together with the support of our leadership team, Heidi Callahan, Lisa Dubinsky, Layne Rackley & Ricardo Ramirez-Rodriguez and our amazing community supporters The Lafayette Hotel, Century 21 Award, Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon, Imperial Court de San Diego and UC San Diego. -Heidi Callahan, San Diego
  • More than a dozen volunteers will be assisting in providing a workshop on financial management for those that may have not already learned. Credit/Debit management and saving &andplanning for big purchases are quite essential tools. Some of these students are indeed parents and need to know how to budget their next paycheck while others need to know how they'll pay for their student loans. - Christian Sanchez, San Francisco Bay Area
  • In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., HRC South Florida partnered with SunServe to help make a difference in the lives of the LGBTQ youth in our community. I asked that our budget be spent on non perishable foods from the Amazon wish list, and had the items sent to my home and delivered them to SunServe on Tuesday evening. The youth were there and assisted us with unloading. It was really heartwarming to speak with them and hear their struggles. -Ken Brown, South Florida
  • Saturday's MLK Day of Service project was comprised of approximately 17 volunteers from the Raleigh-Durham area; including Reach Out and the Triangle Steering Committee gathered at the LGBTQ Center of Durham. Together, we strategized on the best way to put together 125 care packages for homeless youth of the Wrenn House (Haven House, Raleigh, North Carolina). Everyone worked together as a team, to ensure each bag got just the right items. Once they were assembled, we loaded up the cars and delivered them to the Wrenn House. We thanked our lovely volunteers by giving them MLK Day of Service key chains and ordering pizzas. It was a wonderful experience, knowing that our time was well spent, and that we were helping children in need. -Cara Marél, Triangle, North Carolina
  • In partnership with The Arise Project, which is part of the United Way, volunteers from all over the Twin Cities spent the day with two area shelters for homeless youth, Avenues for Homeless Youth and The Bridge For Youth. Volunteers spent their day doing various cleaning projects around the shelters, such as wiping down counters, sweeping and mopping and other projects. Later in the afternoon, volunteers prepared a meal for the youth - chicken, macaroni and cheese, green beans and cornbread. Each year, I'm always strengthened by people's' enthusiasm before, during and after their day of service. It's great to spend a day celebrating diversity, inclusion, and community while creating relationships with local organizations at the same time. -Kyle Smestad, Twin Cities

To learn more about HRC’s participation in Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, please click here.