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Reflections on MLK Day of Service

headerChrisMartin Luther King, Jr. Day means many different things to different people. At United Way of the Greater Triangle, this January 20th was spent organizing and volunteering at one of the four signature projects that were held in Durham, Johnston, Orange, and Wake counties. 

Here are a few reflections from some of the staff and volunteers on their experiences from the day.

Constance D. – Durham County Signature ProjectMLK Day 2014-258 copy

It always astounds me to see the turnout we get from volunteers on MLK Day. This year proved to be no different. Hundreds of smiling faces all ready to pitch in and lend a hand because they know that it’s going to make a difference for someone. It is relationship building at its best, coming together for a common purpose and leaving with new insight, memories and even friends. It’s amazing what you learn over a cup of rice or a set of flashcards.

Our volunteers are phenomenal people. Young and old, students, churches and companies; people from all walks of life assembled in the gymnasium of North Carolina Central University to say that people matter and Dr. King’s dream is still as relevant today as it was 50 years ago.

Victor C2014-01-19 23.51.58 copy – Johnston County Signature Project

Arriving at the event, I found myself jumping right in and helping hang MLK signs off the banister leading upstairs to registration.  I was there to give back to the community by doing something for kids as well as share the experience with my son.  Once we finished setting up the tables, and the volunteers arrived, the fun really began.  So many people turned up, and everyone was in a good mood.  There were a lot of friendly people and we talked and joked as we worked. 

At the bookmark table, we all thought we would be coloring but instead had to come up with ideas to draw on the bookmarks.  It was a great catalyst to share ideas and tease each other about our drawing abilities.  The reading buddies and flash cards were fun because they brought out the kids in us.  It was fun seeing adults take delight in coloring again. 

It was also nice meeting a variety of new people young and old and hearing their stories. Some were there for school, some to spent time with friends, but everyone wanting to do something to give back to the community.  I had a very nice time at the event helping people and partaking in the work.  I also got to spend some one on one time with my youngest son, show him some of the things that United Way does and why it is important.  It was wonderful bonding experience for us.

Edwin J. – Wake County Signature Project2014-01-19 23.45.24 copy

The most recent MLK Day of Service was my sixth in a row as a volunteer through United Way, and each year it gets better and more enriching.  I chose to spend the day at St. Mary’s School in Raleigh for Wake County’s Signature Project, where I knew I could be a part of a large group of people choosing to spend their day off as a “day on.”

The cross-section of volunteers was amazing to watch and be a part of.  Those who attended were young and old, different national and ethnic backgrounds, multiple social-economic classes, men and women, corporate volunteers, nonprofit volunteers, and students.  Each person seemed to easily put aside all of their perceived differences to affect a greater change for those less fortunate on this day.  Teamwork was understood, without instruction.  The aforementioned differences between people did not exist on that day.  Each volunteer had the same responsibility and opportunity to help someone less fortunate as the next.

I feel that our site, probably like most others, was a great example of Dr. King’s message when he said, “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.”

Jenny R. – Orange County Signature Project

It was so encouraging to see so many people in the community come together to serve our neighbors in need. It truly speIMG_2993 copyaks to the power of this community to see people of all ages and backgrounds desire to spend half a day just to serve others. Volunteers were eager to create a fun and inviting environment for all of the families who came through to create literacy kits and take books home. All of the families were very appreciative of the volunteers and the experience as a whole. It was great to see many smiling faces leave as they carried a brand new book in hand.

Leila S. – Wake County Signature ProjectIMG_2933 copy

On the MLK holiday, I served at St. Mary’s School registering volunteers. In this capacity, I was the first point of contact representing United Way. While this was not a particularly difficult job, it was none the less crucial in making sure that each and every volunteer felt valued and welcome.  

They say that first impressions mean a lot. I strove to keep Dr. King’s message of tolerance and love in my heart, and hope that feeling was conveyed to everyone I had the privilege to serve.