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Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service As Experienced By a New Employee


Alex works alongside volunteers at MLK Day of Service to prepare meal assembly kit stations.

BY Alex Hardesty

On Monday, January 18th, United Way of the Greater Triangle hosted its 11th annual Martin Luther King Day of Service. This was my first MLK Day as a United Way employee. We prepared for this day for weeks and the time had finally come to execute our largest community event of the year. At my location, Durham Tech, we were preparing rice and bean bags, as well as soup kits for Inter-Faith Food Shuttle. I was excited to see how many volunteers would participate and how much food we would be able to prepare. As volunteers began to convene, I was overwhelmed by the number of people that had arrived to help with the project. Right away, volunteers asked to be assigned a task that would help in the process of creating meals. The room quickly filled with voices and excitement as the volunteers began to pack bags of rice and beans. It was impressive to see college students taking the initiative to help others by carrying heavy boxes of finished products to the loading areas; young children focusing to make sure the words “1 cup bean” was written perfectly on the bags so the Food Shuttle would be able to read it clearly; and to observe people of all different backgrounds working together to create food for their neighbors.

While I expected people to work together, I didn’t expect what came next. People genuinely got to know each other. Volunteers shared memories of service, what motivated them to volunteer that day and whatever else came up in conversation. The sense of community was tangible throughout the room. That feeling is something I hope to carry with me beyond MLK Day and I hope other volunteers carry it with them as well.

As we reflected on the work we accomplished that morning a quote from Dr. King was shared, “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.” I believe that everyone involved in our MLK Day of Service contributed to making this statement a reality in our community.

In total, over 3025 volunteers joined United Way of the Greater Triangle in service at 35 projects across the Durham, Johnston, Orange and Wake counties. Serving more than 8450 hours in one day, volunteers contributed over 158,900 meals, 800 blankets, 6,000 diapers, 10,000 baby wipes, and hundreds of new books and literacy tools to our neighbors. These combined efforts made MLK Day of Service 2016 our most successful and impactful yet.

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