If you've known or been following me twelve months or longer, then you'll already know about the MLK Day of Community Service that I organize. When I started the event in my dining room, I had absolutely no expectations for growth. I certainly didn't think I'd be hosting it in a church hall two decades later.
Honestly, I almost burned out this year but then my passion was rekindled. Read on . . .
1. I tried to start planning earlier this year. I really did. I literally wrote "MLK IS EARLY THIS YEAR" on my calendar.
Would you like to know what date I put that on?
2. It always just seems so daunting to get started. I'll admit, I even had a fleeting thought that maybe this year would be my last one. As the plans very easily began to fall into place (which frankly does not encourage me to listen to myself about starting early) I reconsidered. I told my husband what I was thinking and he very easily convinced me to continue on for another five years. Twenty-five would be a fine time to hand the reins over to someone else and by then our youngest will be eighteen-- meaning all the kids will have grown up with this annual family community event.
3. In all honesty, I feel like I cut a few corners this year. First in-person event since 2020 and unsure of what the community response would be, starting the planning late and with the thought that it might be my last event . . . I don't know. I can't say my heart was completely in it. But then my Facebook memories began to include photos from previous events (including how we managed to pull it off "drive-through" style TWICE!) and my community donated more money than I asked for to buy supplies and my enthusiasm began returning.
And then the day came and along with it, the reminders of what matters the most about it:
4. The way MLK Day has now become synonymous with community. Children (not just mine) are growing up with the tradition of celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King by giving back. The day itself is part reunion (where folks who only see each other once a year at this event get to catch up while assembling toiletry kits to distribute at the homeless shelter) and part an opportunity to meet new neighbors (while helping children make valentines for seniors and veterans).
5. Most importantly, the impact on the larger community is undeniably positive. Over $6,000 in gift cards and boxes of donations for two local food shelters and a veterans' housing facility collected, activity kits for pediatric hospital patients and homebound seniors created, new baby care kits decorated and assembled for local families, Meals on Wheels bags decorated and more and more and more . . .
Here's to at least five more years. Big thanks to my family (particularly my co-organizing mother and husband and my children who are the reason I started and continue doing this but roll their eyes and ask, "Do I have to go this year?"), everyone who donated money so I could buy supplies and all the volunteers who set up tables, ran activities, moved boxes, cleaned up, brought donations and participated! Thank you for helping us to make it a Day On, Not a Day Off in our little corner of the county for twenty years now!