MLK Day, AmeriCorps Reflections One Year Later

Family Health Day VolunteersA year ago today I was standing inside the door at a Boys and Girls Club in Thurston County, watching snow fall to the ground. One of our biggest AmeriCorps events of the year had arrived. Under the direction of the AmeriCorps Spirit, many service members host/support community service opportunities in full force on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We worried about the snow and saw its effect on lower than expected turnout, but we still had a great day.

Three of my fellow AmeriCorps Members and I worked for two months to pull together a community outreach event, “Family Health Day. ” We’d been through the works for this event. Site location, volunteers, donation gathering, purchasing supplies, set up, and marketing. The other AmeriCorps members on our team had each performed the same tasks to different ends, and MLK Day meant show day. Other groups did homeless outreach, an art fundraiser, and a community bingo night, but each of us had a bent towards healthy living, and thus Family Health Day was born.

Banana Spider!We brought in cross-fit and Zumba trainers, a Tai Chi instructor, Slow Foods members, and representatives to table and speak on behalf of physical and mental health. We created stations for kids to create animals shaped like foods, to learn more about the health benefits of fruits and vegetables, and of course, to “Create a Plate”, where they drew out pictures of a balanced meal.

I felt proud of what we had accomplished and marveled at what the four of us were able to make happen. That day was a lot of work, but I felt blessed to have the support of the community for something that was as important to us as it was. Later in the week as I tallied our metrics and created hand made Thank You cards for the businesses and individuals who had supported us, I wondered what we had accomplished.

Did any children or families actually get healthier because of our event? Was the point of our event really for them, or was it to teach us the skills to pull such an event together? The snow fell harder as our event concluded and the city-wide “MLK Day Celebration” was cancelled due to the weather. In the days that followed, we got snow, then ice, and then we lost power for several days. I ended up sleeping at friends’ places, thankful to be rescued from my cold little duplex.Snowy Beginnings

Today, it’s a comfortable 60 degrees and sunny. The weather offers such a contrast to what I saw last MLK Day that it seems like it’s been far longer than a year since that event. I’m closing in on having been home for six months now, and I’m still trying to figure out how to promote healthy community development. I don’t feel like I have many answers, but I thankfully have a lot of time to look for them.

Happy MLK Day, everyone. May the spirit of MLK rule your day: “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.”