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Day of Service Brings Together a Diverse Community on MLK Day in the United States

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By Naomi Yakawich

“Leadership comes in all shapes and forms and everybody has something to contribute. Leadership is just a byproduct of wanting to help make a difference.” —Brandon Truong, 16

On January 15, over 100 volunteers gathered at Lynnwood Senior Center in Washington State to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by serving their community. The day-long projects focused on youth leadership, service and cohesion, facilitating opportunities for the volunteers to learn more about their own leadership and strengthen their relationships with each other.

Volunteers renew park trail with new gravel on MLK Day of Service

Dr. King’s life was not just spent advocating behind a podium. Rather, he transformed the hearts of others through building relationships with those from different backgrounds. He envisioned a beloved community where all people can live together in harmony as one family under God. Edmonds Community College student and Global Volunteers club officer Akbar Ramadhan said, “We need to have more events like this to have more connection with other people regardless of religion, race or ethnicity.”

Volunteers of all ages, from preschoolers to senior citizens, were excited to come out on their day off to give back to their community. Jeff Zechlin expressed, “I thought it would be a good idea to serve today. I haven't been doing any volunteering for quite a while and just retired two weeks ago, so I’m hoping to do some more and this is a start.”

Lynnwood Mayor Nicola Smith was present at the event to thank the volunteers, referencing Dr. King’s achievements in his youth and linking youth leadership with service. “Dr. King once said life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ It’s not a day off for us. It’s a day on.”

(Left) Leadership activity explores qualities of moral and innovative leaders
(Top) Volunteers clean senior shuttle bus
(Bottom) Mayor Nicola Smith addresses volunteers during MLK Day of Service

Reflecting on his day, Brandon Truong from North Creek High School shared, “Leadership comes in all shapes and forms and everybody has something to contribute. Leadership is just a byproduct of wanting to help make a difference.”

The projects included laying down gravel on Mesika trail that ran behind the Senior Center, City Hall and library, detailing of city shuttle buses used by the local seniors and creating posters promoting acts of kindness and service for Meadowdale Elementary School in support of their “Respect for All Week” dedicated to Dr. King. International student Jinkai Fu from the Global Volunteers club at Edmonds Community College worked on the gravel project. “The job is not easy, but giving back to society is meaningful,” Jinkai said.

Volunteers create posters for "Respect for All Week" at a local elementary school

After completing the projects, volunteers took part in a leadership activity with team reflections and sharing. When asked how they could put into practice what they gained today in their everyday lives, Rachel Chang from Inglemoor High School said, “I should be aware of not only the difference between myself and others, but also what we could do to be more unified [and] get along.” Recognizing her own leadership strengths, Michelene Nguyen from the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement said, “[I want] to use the qualities [that] I have to understand and work together with others.”

As said in his iconic speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., the realization of Dr. King’s dream takes daily effort. Andrew Wei from the University of Washington encouraged, “[Don’t] just go out for special events to work on things for the community, but do things that benefit the community every day.”

Remember, as Dr. King once said, everybody can be great because anybody can serve.

This project was made possible with support from local vendors including 85°C Bakery Café, Chick-Fil-A, Costco, Domino’s, Quality Food Centers, Starbucks and Walmart.

View the full gallery here. (Photography by Takae Goto)