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National Day of Service Honors U.S. Civil Rights Leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Top left: Rev. Bernice King; bottom left: Dr. Paul Murray address volunteers at the King Center
Rev. Bernice King (top) and Dr. Paul Murray (below)
address volunteers at the King Center.Martin Luther King
National Day of Service is unique among the holidays
celebrated by Americans. 

Observed on the third Thursday of January, the holiday honors Dr. King’s life by calling on citizens to “take a day on, not a day off” through community service. 

The Global Peace Foundation USA in partnership with the King Center, Corporation for National and Community Service, Points of Light, Coalition for American Renewal, Service For Peace, Home Depot and others, determined to take the message of service for others beyond one day by providing much-needed maintenance for the King Center facilities in preparation for the 50th anniversary celebrations of the civil rights leader’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech on August 26.

A 'Be the Dream' committee of partners, organized by Dr. Paul Murray, co-chair of the Coalition for American Renewal, compiled a list of ongoing projects at the King Center throughout 2013 and agreed to joint efforts to bring volunteers and resources to support the projects. 

Other committee organization members included the Global Peace Youth Corps, Kiwanis, Georgia State University Office of Civic Engagement, Motivated Adults Developing Excellence (MADE), Building Understanding, Ignite, Life Skills Foundation, Christian Methodist Episcopal, and Youth Universe.

Volunteers, young and old, provide landscaping, cleaning and refurbishing services at the King Center in Atlanta.
Volunteers, young and old, provide landscaping, cleaning
and refurbishing services at the King Center in Atlanta. 

Home Depot Foundation representatives were especially excited about the King Center project and committed not just to one or two projects listed, but nearly all of them. The Home Depot Foundation also offered $15,000 in gift cards to purchase the supplies, as well as manpower to support the projects on site. The Home Depot Foundation also offered more than $50,000 in grant money to Service For Peace for projects that will take place in 13 sites in the southeastern region. 

On January 16 more than 120 ‘Be the Dream’ volunteers, including 100 Home Depot volunteers, began preparations for the busy holiday weekend. Rev. Bernice King, CEO of the King Center and Dr. King's youngest daughter, welcomed the volunteers in the center's auditorium and expressed her gratitude to Home Depot for their work and services. Projects included repainting the entire exhibit hall, cleaning throughout the facility, replacing light bulbs with LED lights, replacing the carpets with wooden tiling, landscaping throughout the facility and replacing the K-I-N-G sign made out of shrubbery with stone. 

Ten days later, ‘Be the Dream’ brought over 100 volunteers to continue beautifying the King Center. Projects included cleaning the facilities, landscaping, weeding and cleaning the back street and parking lot, and painting.Volunteers will patch and paint the reflecting pool in the spring and tackle other projects in the summer before the event in anniversary event Washington D.C.

Service at school

'Be the Dream' projects went beyond the King Center and into the Atlanta Public Schools on January 21, the MLK Day of Service.

At Martin Luther King Middle School created their own projects for MLK Service Day.
At Martin Luther King Middle School created their own projects for MLK Service Day.

Martin Luther King Middle School  GPF-USA’s pilot program, the Leadership Academy: Inroads to Success, created their own projects for MLK Service Day. Students and facilitators baked cupcakes and made cards, origami and bracelets for the elderly living in a nearby apartment complex, going door-to-door to meet the residents. The Leadership Academy also launched 40 Days of Peace beginning on the Day of Service, promoting acts of kindness and service in students’ homes, school and community. 

Other projects hosted by Atlanta Cares and After School All Stars included planting the flower beds, painting murals, writing cards and letters, and making bracelets for active duty service men and women who are overseas. Youth Engaged in Learning and Leading (YELL) Academy and the Wholistic Stress Control Institute also hosted workshops for students and parents. 

Sylvan Hills Middle School  Because few shops, community centers or churches in the area, Sylvan Hills Middle School administrators welcomed the Day of Service as a chance to further engage the community with the school. 

Volunteers were also learned about the GPF's Alllights Village Project, and some made boxes to raise funds during the 40 Days of Peace.
Volunteers were also learned about the GPF's Alllights Village Project, and
some made boxes to raise funds during the 40 Days of Peace.

Service projects included painting needed school entrance signs and preparing cards and small crafts for the local children's hospital. Since classes are moving to a new location while a new school is built, one of the biggest projects involved removing unneeded furniture and materials in storage. Local flea market workers volunteered and contributed vans and trucks. Volunteers were also learned about the Global Peace Foundation’s Alllights Village project, and some made boxes to raise funds during the 40 Days of Peace.

The Global Peace Foundation also provides technical and logistical assistance to partnering organizations to support the King Day of Service. In 2013, GPF supported Shelby County Head Start in Tennessee, which organized nearly one hundred volunteers. Projects included lead screenings by Shelby County Health Department, haircuts from the local Barber School, and vision screenings from the Eye Center at Southern College of Optometry. The New Salem Girl Scout Troop assisted vendors and helped with clean up, and Shelby County Books from Birth offered free books to attendees.These projects represent my belief that Dr. King's envisioned a world of global brotherhood and sisterhood of humankind. The vendors embracing the 'day of service' stood out most of the day." Said Tonja Lewis, Shelby County Head Start Family Services Specialist and coordinator of MLK Day of Service.