Service work, civil rights, collaboration and community were the words of the day at the MLK Jr. Day of Service on Monday, January 21st. Throughout Clarkston, more than 600 people from more than 20 organizations and faith groups converged to participate in service activities and improve conditions throughout the community.
Of the 611 total people who worked that day, 396 people had signed in at the Clarkston Community Center by 9:00 am, and crowded into Angora Hall for the opening ceremony. The others had already arrived at other service sites, including apartment complexes and churches throughout the city.
At the Community Center, Pastor Khalif Smith of the First United Methodist Church in Clarkston opened day with a welcoming speech, and referenced the World House speech by civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In this speech, King called upon people to “remain awake” during times of great social change.
“The people gathered here are here because they are awake- in spirit, and in community,” he said. “If Dr. King was here, what would he do? He’d probably write a speech.”
The opening ceremony included several mentions to the Civil Rights movement, including a story by Anne Eddings about a young Civil Rights activist in Alabama, and a speech by local activists Nan and Britt Pendergrast, who had known Dr. King. These stories held an extra poignancy as the nation’s first African-American president, Barack Obama, was inaugurated for a second term that same day. Imam Bendez from the Masjid Al-Momideen in Clarkston and McKenzie Wren, Clarkston Community Center Executive Director, also led the group in prayers.
Volunteers then split up into several groups, each participating in volunteer work projects all throughout Clarkston. Outside the Community Center, the International Rescue Committee led volunteers up and down Indian Creek, picking up trash on the stretch of recently adopted highway. At the bus stop in front of the library, volunteers installed a new bench.
In the Community Center, some volunteers held a book drive while others sorted donated rice and pots and pans. At the United Methodist Church, volunteers organized a food pantry. Still other volunteers split into several clean-up crews for nearby areas.
One of the clean-up crews, formed mostly by young, local residents, cleaned areas of the apartment complex at Branon Hills. Another group, led by local youth from the Clarkston Youth Initiative, cleaned the track and field behind the Clarkston High School. Youth-organized and youth-inspired, this clean-up drew students interested in renewing the appearance and usability of the track and field behind their school.
One Clarkston High School junior, Tony Chang, said he had been asked by members of the Clarkston Youth Initiative to come out and help clean. Another junior, Caria Bass, said that she would count the time she spent volunteering toward the 100 service hours every Clarkston High School student needs to graduate.
In the meantime, at Avalon apartments, youth and adults gathered to discuss Martin Luther King’s life and make artwork together. They played on the outdoor playground and gathered at a covered picnic table, using crayons and markers to decorate paper cut-outs in the shape of people. At 10:00 am, they gathered in a circle for a brief opening ceremony. Later in the day, a trainer led a physical fitness exercise and there was an art show displaying some of the coloring that kids did.
Naomi Robinson, one of the organizers at the Avalon apartments, said the turnout impressed her. She said the MLK Jr. Day of Service was a great success, with more people participating this year than in the previous years, and that the only way she could think of to improve it is to get more people from more diverse backgrounds to volunteer.
The closing ceremony at the Clarkston Community Center concluded the day of service at 1:30 pm, with a smaller group of about fifty people joining hands in a circle. Each named a word that represented their feelings after their service work that day and shared in a prayer.
CDF collaborated with numerous other groups, including Lutheran Services of Georgia, the Clarkston Community Center, the Clarkston Interfaith Group, the International Rescue Committee, and numerous local faith groups to help organize the MLK Jr. Day of Service. The organizers want to thank the hard-working community members who came together to make this day the success that it was.