The Mountain Times

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Community service honors MLK

Photos by Nathan Allen
AmeriCorps volunteer from Montpelier, Ken Benton paints with Bill Martinez, an American Legion and Grace Church volunteer at The Vermont Achievement Center in Rutland.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'"

Martin Luther King's birthday has been a federal holiday since 1983 but it wasn't until 1994 that it became an official day of service. In that year Congress designated King's birthday as the only federally recognized day of community service and put the Corporation for National and Community Service in charge of leading and organizing volunteer efforts across the country. The idea behind the designation was to properly honor the inspirational civil rights leader who once said "Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."

Martin Luther King felt that selfless serving was the true path towards strengthening communities and solving social problems.
The Grace Congregational Church in Rutland was the headquarters for several volunteer projects last Monday, Jan. 21. AmeriCorp leader Melissa Schlobohm said "I am proud to honor Martin Luther King's birthday with a day on, not a day off. When we set out to organize this day of community service we really wanted to bring everyone to a centralized location. Rutland is perfect because it has so many active volunteer organizations. The Grace Church has also been a huge ally." 

About 70 AmeriCorp members from around the state participated in service opportunities around the city. Volunteers collected food from around the city and sorted it out at The Community Cupboard. Over 800 items were collected during their efforts. Cleaning and organizing projects were organized at The Dismas House and painting projects were completed at the Vermont Achievement Center. Art projects were created with children at The Boys and Girls Club and the Women's Shelter. Other service sites were the United Methodist Church, Mentor Connector and local nursing homes.