Volunteers help the needy realize Dr. King’s dream

By Sean Barron

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

By Sean Barron

Tough economic times have contributed to a greater need for food this year, an organizer said.

YOUNGSTOWN — Mallory Kimble is too young to remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s activism and historic speeches, but was more than willing to do her part to act on one of King’s central themes: community service.

“I feel like Martin Luther King did a lot to help others, so I should do something he did his whole life,” the Chaney High School junior said, referring to a main reason she participated in Monday’s “Honor the Dream” food drive at First Presbyterian Church, 201 Wick Ave.

A similar effort took place Monday at Warren G. Harding High School, 860 Elm Road N.E., Warren.

Mallory’s duties included helping her mother, Brenda, bring in and sort the nonperishable food items people brought to the church throughout the four-hour drive, which was set up to honor King’s birthday and legacy.

More people need to understand what King stood for and view the holiday in accordance with his desire to give back to communities, not just see it as a day off work or school, Brenda Kimble noted.

Mother and daughter also are members of Mahoning Valley for Change, formerly Mahoning Valley for Obama.

Residents brought bags of canned goods, tomato sauce and numerous other types of nonperishable foods to the two sites in an effort to help feed the Mahoning Valley. Organizing the two service projects was HandsOn Volunteer Network of the Valley, formerly the Volunteer Services Agency.

Joining forces with HandsOn were several other members of Mahoning Valley for Change as well as the Martin Luther King Planning Committee of the Mahoning Valley and Feed Our Valley. Many volunteers spent time separating donations that were to be donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank, which was to distribute the items to various organizations to be given to those less fortunate, explained Anita Huston, HandsOn’s volunteer coordinator.

The food drive was largely the result of enlisting churches and other faith-based institutions in Mahoning and Trumbull counties and having them encourage parishioners to donate the goods, Huston noted, adding that her organization recognizes the King holiday as a national day of service.

“We thought at our agency that this is a good way to honor Dr. King ... to conduct a project that could draw in volunteers throughout the Mahoning Valley to meet a fundamental need,” which is hunger, she said.

Typically, many food pantries run low on food after Christmas, and this year has seen many pantries’ shelves depleted, Hustone said. The poor economy has led to a greater demand for food and other essential needs, Huston noted.

“There’s a real need out there,” she added.

Several community activists conducted an hourlong meeting at the church during the food drive to discuss, among other things, ways to better serve the Valley this year, noted Tyler Clark.

Ideas included working with Youngstown CityScape and other organizations on neighborhood beautification projects; neighborhood collaborations and grass-roots efforts; enlisting young people for clean-up projects; and repairing the roof of a picnic pavilion at Crandall Park, Clark said.