200 volunteer in honor of MLK

By Sara Bruestle | Feb 01, 2012

 

Photo courtesy of David Brown, for United Way of Snohomish County


 Vivian Bonsu, a senior at Mariner High School, vacuums at a home in Edmonds during the annual MLK Day of Service on Jan. 28.  Students from the Mukilteo School District volunteered their time to help the elderly and disabled in Snohomish County with chores.


Snow did not stop more than 200 volunteers in Snohomish County from honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. with a day on and not a day off.

On Jan. 28, about 180 teenagers and 40 adults volunteered in teams of 3-5 to help the elderly and disabled across the county with household and yard chores for an MLK Day of Service.

“Martin Luther King Day is all about making a difference in somebody’s life, making a difference in the world [through] making change,” said volunteer Vivian Bonsu, a Mariner senior.

The community service project is traditionally held annually on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday but was rescheduled this year due to the recent snowstorm.

This was the third MLK Day of Service sponsored by United Way Snohomish County and YMCA of Snohomish County, as well as Volunteer Chore Services and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, both programs of Catholic Community Services.

With the rescheduling, sponsors saw a dip in the number of volunteers – but not by much, said Neil Parekh, a United Way spokesperson. Last year, there were about 300 volunteers.

The project is meant to honor MLK, and to transform his life’s mission and teachings into community service, Parekh said.

“There’s a certain sense that we should all support each other, we can all get along, and it doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, how old you are, what your life experience has been up to this point – we are all equal and we’re all deserving of that kind of community support.

“That is what we are trying to instill and foster with this project on this day of service.”

Teens from Kamiak and Mariner high schools, as well as the United Way’s Youth United and YMCA’s Minority Achievers programs, teamed up with seniors from RSVP to donate their time.

“We’re really proud of the fact that it’s an intergenerational experience – that we have high school students working with seniors, because that really does strengthen the bonds we have in the community,” Parekh said.

Estrella Reyes, a freshman at Mariner, helped a man named Jeff, who is in a wheelchair, with yard work at his home in Lynnwood. Her team of three teens spent about two hours mowing the lawn, raking leaves, trimming bushes and pulling weeds in the Jeff’s yard.

“It provided me the perspective to understand that people need help,” Estrella said. “I was glad to give my time for someone who really needed it.”

Vivian helped clean a 69-year-old woman’s home named Susan in Edmonds.

A team of four teens was there for about two hours, dusting furniture, vacuuming carpets, sweeping floors, scrubbing toilets and showers, wiping counters and washing dishes.

“It was such a great experience,” Vivian said. “You’re able to just put a smile on somebody’s face and just make somebody happy, and I feel like Martin Luther King Day, that’s what it’s all about.”

“Even though I couldn’t make a change in the whole world, I could at least make a change in somebody else’s life, because even one person is making a difference.”

She said Susan was thankful that the volunteers chose to give up their Saturday to help her.

“She said ‘thank you’ so much,” Vivian said. “It was a surprise for me because it didn’t feel like it was that much that we did, but she was so thankful. She just kept thanking us.”

After they finished cleaning, the teens were invited to stay to chat and have some banana bread. They baked the banana bread together.

“She needed the company,” Vivian said. “She was just like ‘Wow, it’s really nice to have a house full of girls.’ We had a really good time.”

Billed as a "day on" as opposed to a "day off," the Day of Service kicked off in Mukilteo, Everett, Marysville and Stanwood.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Eric Lucas was the keynote speaker for the Mukilteo kickoff.
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