“Everybody can be great because anybody can serve.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
On January 18th, volunteers gathered by Global Peace Foundation joined in multiple service projects across the United States. These projects, conducted in partnership with Service for Peace and the Corporation for National and Community Service, took place in the states of Washington, Montana, and Georgia.
In Lynnwood, Washington more than 90 high school and college students as well as young professionals came together under Global Peace Youth-USA to participate in city trail rehabilitation and the creation of motivational posters for a local elementary school’s celebration of “Respect for All” week. Lynnwood mayor, Nicola Smith, welcomed participants, calling them “world citizens” and encouraging them to take in their experience of service to the community and apply it to their development as leaders on a larger scale.
After spreading 100 tons of crushed rock over 15,000 square feet of trail, volunteers expressed their gratitude to be a part of the service activities saying it was a unique opportunity to meet new people while improving the community and inspiring others to do the same. Volunteer Cheryl Lee shared what she gained out of her experience stating, “Working together as a community to improve our environment creates a greater sense of belonging. I’m inspired by all the young leaders in the community.”
Ton Nguyen, a representative from the Vietnamese Eucharist Youth Movement, reflected on Dr. King’s quote presented on volunteer t-shirts, “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve,” saying, “To be a great leader you have to be a servant to others, not thinking about yourself and putting someone else’s needs before yours. In order to be a great leader, you’ve got to sacrifice yourself to elevate others to new heights.” University of Washington student and president of Global Peace Youth on campus, Yoshi Goto, added, “A true leader is someone who has a great vision and yet acts with a service mentality. They don’t lead by telling others what to do but they lead by first being the one getting into the dirt, show that physical example; that actual action. Then people will be able to respect them because of that.”
In Billings, Montana, volunteers participated in a series of events over the weekend, starting with a cleaning and rehabilitation of the local Friendship House, a member of the Leadership Foundations Network and ending on Monday with a gathering at the Billings NOVA center. Billings Mayor Tom Hanel welcomed the crowd of 100 participants saying, “Your work today exemplifies a community that is willing to roll up their sleeves and share common bonds.” This celebration of diversity and the accomplishments of Dr. King were appreciated by parents, children, students, and city government officials present at the event. Following a performance by a local high school choir, Billings City Councilman Michael Yakawich commented, “It amazes me how our MLK Jr. day events bring old and new friends together; bringing about collaboration and breaking down barriers among races, cultures, and creeds.”
Volunteers came out in Atlanta, Georgia for an entire weekend under the theme “The Dream Speaks”, kicking off with a Teen Summit. Here, 300 middle and high school youth gathered to engage with local leaders who motivated kids on how they can use their voice to keep their dream alive. “Too many students throw their lives away,” said Judge Penny Brown, “Focus on the dream, speak on the dream and it will come true.”
The weekend also included a clothing drive that collected 350 pieces of clothing and 25 coats, which was also used as the “admission” to a poetry slam event held at Sam Kofa Church of Christ, where poets touched on the theme focusing on civil rights, Dr. King, unity, and their beloved community. Clothes were distributed at Lindsay Ave Baptist Church. Following the distribution, the community participated in a massive street cleaning where volunteers cleaned up to five blocks of the surrounding area.
MLK Day is the starting day of Atlanta’s 40-40 Project, where teams of volunteers will serve every day for 40 days to promote the 40 Days of Peace campaign. In partnership with the local food pantry, every Tuesday, the 40-40 Project will be serving in a local mosque bringing Christians and Muslims together to feed the community. Xavier Best, President of the Southern Clergy Leadership Conference (SCLC) Next Generation Leadership Council, said, “By participating in the community clean up I was able to gain a deeper appreciation of my capacity as an agent of change. The 40/40 Project exemplified the brand of servant leadership that’s needed to build on the successes of Dr. King.”