2222— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1956
2Fifty eight years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose achievements and character America honors today, outlined plans for such “beloved communities” across the United States. In King’s vision, they would serve as the final leg in the journey of oppressed and disadvantaged Americans once the obstacles of violence, hatred and discrimination were banished from their surroundings.
Though such social ills clearly have not been totally erased from American culture, great progress has been made. Today’s holiday provides opportunities for millions of Americans and thousands of Mahoning Valley residents to advance King’s admirable community cause.
After all, today is not designed merely to be a day off from work. According to national MLK Day organizers and a 1994 congressional proclamation,the holiday is a “day on” to build stronger communities. The MLK Day of Service also is a part of United We Serve, President Obama’s national call-to-service initiative.
HOW OUR COMMUNITY CAN HELP
Commendably, Greater Youngstown is answering that call.
For example, employees of many Huntington Bank branches in the Mahoning Valley will celebrate the community-building principles championed by King by going to work at social service organizations throughout our footprint. One such stop will be at the Boys & Girls Club of Youngstown where bank employees will teach financial literacy principles to children.
Elsewhere, the HandsOn Volunteer Network of the Valley has been recruiting volunteers to work today sorting, tallying and bagging school supplies for children whose families cannot afford them. On Tuesday, they plan to distribute them to schools throughout Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
At First Presbyterian Church in downtown Youngstown this morning, a traditional staple of the holiday will be marked with the annual community workshop. From 8:30 a.m. to noon there, participants will address and brainstorm ways to respond to King’s challenge to fight for justice and rid the world of economic disparities.
Of course, Valley residents do not need an organized activity to mark this National Day of Service and to make a positive difference in their community. Give a ride to shut in. Collect nonperishable food items to donate to the Second Harvest Foodbank of the Mahoning Valley. Volunteer time and service to the Rescue Mission on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Youngstown. The possibilities are indeed endless.
By vowing to actively serve our communities in need today, Valley residents and all Americans can start a habit that will grow and bear fruit all year long. It is one of King’s many noble dreams for justice, equality, fairness and decency that Americans from all walks of life should resolve to embrace and advance today.