Posts Tagged ‘Dr. Martin Luther King’

-Blog post by Reed Sandridge from Washington, DC

"The Amazing Kim Perry" volunteering at Robert E. Lee High School.

Last year a good friend of mine, the amazing Kim Perry (I actually call her that too), invited me to spend Martin Luther King Jr. Day doing some community service.  This past MLK Day marked the 25th anniversary of the federal holiday and I thought what better way to pay tribute to the great civil rights leader, and continue on a tradition that Kim instilled in me, than to spend my day off helping others.

The holiday was officially designated as a day of service by Congress in 1994.  So it’s actually supposed to be a “day on, not a day off.”  A day when people from all backgrounds come together to strengthen the fabric of communities we live in.

I invited lots of people to come out and serve with me.  Greater DC Cares organizes a massive effort in DC to help a plethora of organizations; from revitalizing schools to helping feed the poor and hungry.  On their website you can create a team and activate your own network to come together to work on a project.  I signed up a Year of Giving team, however, the web-portal that Greater DC Cares uses for registration locked a week in advance so many of those who wanted to join me were unable to which I think was a shame.

Anyway, the response I got from friends was interesting.  Many supported the idea of serving on MLK Day, a handful even came out and worked alongside me.  And of course there were a few who took the attitude of, “I have the day off…why would I waste a day off to go out and work?”

Fair question.  I guess because I believe that if you really want to celebrate the holiday, and after all isn’t that why we are released from our work commitments on these holidays, the best way to do that for MLK Day is to volunteer your time to help transform the dream that Dr. King had of a “beloved community” into a reality.

My team was part of a larger project that helped paint parts of Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, VA.  In all I think we had 40 volunteers there.  Although I thought the service day lacked a little overall leadership and guidance for the volunteers, we managed to complete the task.  The team I was assigned to gelled really well.  What we lacked in the way of instructions we compensated with initiative, enthusiasm and compassion – not to mention a heavy dose of FUN.

I really believe our team produced the best looking wall.  Now to be fair we had a bit of an advantage.  Several of the teams painted stripes down the hallways; we were assigned yellow, others had blue, red and green.  Yellow is the lightest of the colors and hides flaws very easily whereas those who were painting more contrasting colors, such as blue and red, had a challenging time concealing the brush strokes that escaped the painting area.

Volunteers at Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, VA.

All in all it was good experience and I hope we created something that the high school students will appreciate – although I doubt that when I was a student I would have valued such an effort very much.  Back then I just didn’t appreciate the challenges that schools face financially and value the efforts that were made by others to make the learning environment a more attractive space.

Thanks to all of those who helped to keep Dr. King’s dream alive.  For those of you who haven’t ever spent the day serving, make a commitment to do this next year.

And for those of you in DC who can’t wait to get out and help your community keep checking my calendar for service events.  Also keep an eye out for Servathon in April – two extraordinary days of service organized by Greater DC Cares that bring together nearly 5,000 volunteers to help 70+ nonprofits!  I checked their website and they don’t have any information up as of today on the 2011 event, but hopefully they post it soon!

Did you volunteer on MLK Day?  If so, I’d love to hear about your experience!

Want to see more photos from this event?  Click here.

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Well, just when I thought I had resolved the problems with my unemployment situation, I found another hurdle.  You might recall I went in person a few weeks ago and met with the facility manager at the Rhode Island Ave. location, Ms. Bonham.  When I logged into the website to check to see if my payments had been processed I saw that it had the same error as before.  I called Ms. Bonham and she remembered me right away and said she would try to resolve this once and for all.  Despite the headaches I have had getting this to work, the people at the unemployment office have been extremely friendly and professional.

I am fortunate to have a small savings that can carry me over until I find new employment.  I have a college degree, solid professional experience, car, internet access, phone, etc.  I am sure that many people who are filing for unemployment do not have these things.  What would they do if they went three months without being able to get a resolution from the unemployment office?  How would they logistically or financially get themselves to the unemployment office?  Would they be able to access all the forms that they refer to online?  Ok, I will be quiet now.

So yesterday I got home from my theatre rehearsal around 11pm.  I still needed to give away my $10 so I went out to quickly find someone before midnight.  I found Larry sitting against a bank on a busy street.  As I approached him he asked if I could spare some change.  I asked him if $10 would help and he replied, “Hell yeah!” I kneeled down beside him and gave the 54-year-old lifelong resident of DC a crisp $10 bill.  He looked at it almost as if he was checking to see if it was counterfeit and then it disappeared into his coat.

Larry has been homeless in DC for more than 10 years.  He used to be a food and beverage supervisor at the Hyatt Regency.  When he lost his job he said that things just snowballed and he ended up on the streets.  Now he spends his days and evenings panhandling.  Larry laughs easily and grins revealing that half of his upper teeth are missing.  His eyes are glassy and the alcohol on his breath smells almost medicinal.  He says his eyes are really bad.  He needs prescriptive lenses and has cataracts.  His parents have passed away, but he has three siblings, a sister with whom he has contact, another sister that he has lost contact with and a brother that he is not in touch with since he was hospitalized for mental illness.  Needless to say, Larry has a handful of issues.

He is not shy to ask me questions.  Larry investigates why I am doing the Year of Giving, what others have done with the money, etc.  He says that he will spend the $10 to get some food this week.

I stood for a second to stretch my legs.  It was uncomfortable talking to him while standing though so I returned to my squatting position.  How do baseball catchers do it…my knees are killing me.  Our conversation sailed back and forth jumping all over the map.  He proudly told me that he met Dr. Martin Luther King when he was 9 years old when the great leader was giving a speech at a DC school.  He later goes on to ask what I was going to do on Martin Luther King Day.  Interesting that he asked, as my friend Kim just invited me to participate in a day of service preparing food next Monday for Martha’s Table, an organization that helps at-risk children, youth, families, and individuals in the community improve their lives by providing educational programs, food, clothing, and other support.  We will be preparing food for them.  Thanks for including me Kim!

I started to cough and am reminded that I need to get indoors and get some rest.  I have been battling a cold for some time.  I wish Larry well, shake his hand, and head home.

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