When I first started hosting a Martin Luther King Day of Community Service event I, unlike Dr. King, did not have a dream. As a matter of fact, my intentions may have been just as selfish as they were altruistic—I had heard about the national push to make it a "Day ON, not a day off!" and I wanted my kids to have a chance to honor Dr. King by participating in a Day of Service. There was nothing offered in my area, so I started one myself.
That first event was just a few toddlers in my dining room coloring bags for Meals On Wheels. The next two years we moved to a coffee shop with that same lonely activity . . . this year we filled a gym-sized room at a local church with 13 different activities to benefit various local and worldwide organizations.
While I never knew this event would grow exponentially, I am incredibly proud of what it has become and eternally grateful to the dozens of behind-the-scenes donors and volunteers that help me to pull it off.
Here are some highlights from our 15th Annual MLK Day of Service:
1. Photo booth! I thought I'd make the table where volunteers were writing letters to soldiers a little more interactive with the addition of a photo booth stocked with patriotic props. It wasn't quite as popular as I wanted it to be but it was still lots of fun.
2. At that same table, a former soldier sat down and said, "I always wondered who wrote these letters to me." (This gave us all the chills.)
3. Screenprinting! A very talented local friend (Thank you Nicole of Jersey Community Acupuncture!) offered to set up a screenprinting station at last year's event and came back with a new design this year. I really love the DIY art element this adds to our day. I can't wait to see someone out in public wearing one of their MLK Day tee shirts!
4. We usually have a free 5-minute massage offered for the adults. They couldn't make it this year and after a day of loading, setting up, running an event, reloading, etc . . . I was really feeling it. (#oldlady) But that peach of a husband of mine gave me a gift certificate for a much longer massage because he is the best.
5. On Monday morning, I was messaging with a friend and we were joking around about me being allowed to boss her around at the Day of Service. I very randomly joked, "If Congressman Lance shows up, do I get to boss him around too?" (He has never come before and I had no reason to expect he would.) When we were just starting to clean things up, that same friend called my name and said "Someone's here to see you!" IT WAS THE CONGRESSMAN. I am pretty sure I will laugh about this until next year.
(*Note: I was also thrilled to have so many activists present this year, including the social justice theatre group I belong to, members of the local Anti-Racism Coaltion and Democratic Clubs and Dr. Karen Gaffney, author of "Dismantling the Racism Machine: A Manual and Toolbox". Many people stopped by to discuss concrete ways of combating racism on the personal and institutionalized levels. When the Congressman showed up, I was shocked and busy so after our photo opp I led him to the activists so they could ask him some questions about what he's doing regarding DACA, the wall, etc. I am so thankful for their presence and hope they are always a part of my event and my life.)