16th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service

“Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On Monday, January 16th, Athens Land Trust participated in the 16th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Nearly 750 people in and around Athens participated, and 150 volunteered at the West Broad Market Garden site. It was a warm and sunny day, perfect for honoring the tremendous legacy of Dr. King through service, fellowship, and a commitment to bettering our community.

This event has grown in scope and size over the years, emboldened by President Obama’s mandate to make Martin Luther King Day a “day on, not a day off,” and through an emerging awareness of the importance of individuals in championing change within the community. Echoing hundreds of thousands of other, similar sites across the county, the garden at West Broad was teeming with people from all races, classes, and creeds working together towards a common goal. Jen Reid, VISTA Public Relations Coordinator, reflected, “To see people of all ages and cultures working together in the essence of equality and justice — not just for the sake of ‘getting something done,’ but to enjoy each other, dance, laugh, and eat together — has renewed my hope for our future.”

More than just a community-wide extension of our service as VISTAs, this event was an opportunity for us to understand the unique needs/barriers facing those we hope to support. Adam Wilson, VISTA Market Assistant, was responsible for supervising the Kids Zone, a job which he quickly realized entailed “the other side” to service. “Who helps you when you take the time to help the community?” Adam asked, recognizing that community members don’t just need assistance in securing housing and employment, they also need support when they are in a position to give back to their neighborhood. “Childcare is a priority not only for working parents, but for volunteering parents as well. It all makes a difference.”

To commemorate the day’s work and to serve as a powerful reminder of the mission and vision of the day, Athens Land Trust hosted a celebration with entertainment, speeches, and performances from several members of the community, including Zeke Turner, Maxim Debonair, Mia, Musa Hasan (a West Broad Farmers Market vendor), and two of our Young Urban Farmers: Alexa and Marisha. The crowd was lively and engaged, energized by the awareness that each of us were committed, in our own way, to building a more just and equitable society together. It was a beautiful day, a breathtaking reminder of the power of purpose and our responsibility to give of ourselves in order to foster opportunity, abundance, and hope.

To see more images from that memorable event, visit Online Athens Banner Herald.