MLK holiday is a day to help community

  • Thu Jan 14th, 2010 10:07pm
  • News

By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist

It’s a day on, not a day off.

That’s the vision of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday being fostered for the first time by three local agencies.

Teen volunteers will do household and outdoor chores for elderly and disabled people Monday as the YMCA of Snohomish County, United Way of Snohomish County and Catholic Community Services team up for the King Day of Service.

“I think a lot of people don’t want to take the day off. They would like a meaningful experience on a day for honoring Martin Luther King,” said JJ Frank, director of the YMCA’s Minority Achievers Program.

Monday will bring together teens and adults from United Way’s Youth United program, the Y’s Minority Achievers, and Catholic Community Services’ Retired Senior Volunteer Program and Volunteer Chore Services.

“It’s a new thing, working with the Youth United program as well as JJ’s people, the YMCA Minority Achievers,” said Jenita Nelson, Catholic Community Services manager of Volunteer Chore Services. “I’d like to see it be an everyday occurrence,” Nelson said.

“So many elderly people don’t have families, they’re in isolation,” she said. “They just need a little bit of help. Kids will really see the impact of volunteering.”

It won’t be all work. The schedule includes time for fun and learning about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

A 9 a.m. kickoff breakfast at the Everett Family YMCA will be followed by a talk about King. Lincoln, the Everett Silvertips mascot, will make an appearance, and there will be door prizes, Frank said.

Adult team leaders will meet young volunteers and explain what they’ll do when they go to homes of people needing help. Nelson hopes to have at least 50 volunteers show up Monday. A peek at the client list shows there’s plenty of work to be done.

A 95-year-old woman needs someone to clean her bathroom. A man with multiple sclerosis has housework he can’t get to. Weeds need pulling at the home of a woman with a neck injury.

“I have one client, she can’t mop. She has a broken collarbone,” Nelson said. “To hear their voices, sometimes it’s not what we do but the fact that we’re there and we listen. It lights up their day.”

The King Day of Service is a broader effort sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that oversees Senior Corps and AmeriCorps. A government Web site,, notes a parallel between the world envisioned by the civil rights leader and volunteerism: “Dr. King inspired Americans to think beyond themselves.”

In Snohomish County, “this is fresh and new,” said Frank, adding that in years past some people seeking volunteer opportunities on the King holiday traveled to Seattle to find them.

“We’re trying to make it fun, and at the same time understand Martin Luther King’s legacy,” Frank said. “It’s about giving.”

“I’m excited for it,” Nelson said. “We would like to see the kids who work with us Monday come back. We’re a community. We should stay connected.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460,

Day of service

On the King Day of Service, teen and adult volunteers will help elderly and disabled people in Snohomish County. The event is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday, beginning with a kickoff breakfast at the Everett Family YMCA, 2720 Rockefeller Ave. Volunteers will travel to clients’ homes. Adult team leaders will oversee work. Volunteers must register prior to Monday and have their own transportation to work sites.

Teens 14 to 18 and adults may register at:

To sign up this weekend, call Debra Bordsen of Catholic Community Services: 425-760 2462

More volunteering: From 10 a.m. to noon Monday, volunteers will pull out ivy and blackberry plants at Everett’s Forgotten Creek Natural Area. Bring work gloves and meet behind the Family Market at Kromer Avenue and Laurel Drive. Information: 425-303-0127.