OLYMPIA - Volunteers fanned out across Thurston County Monday, participating in service projects that celebrated the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
Seven of those projects belonged to a combination of volunteers from the area, Community Youth Services and Americorps, a national volunteerism organization.
One of the groups spent the day packing care packages for the homeless – suitcases full of clothes and toiletry items – and distributing them at Sylvester Park. It was the culmination of a months-long effort.
“We just collected donations since, like, October,” said Brittany Barbour, 22.
The Americorps volunteers are on an 11-month tour of service, each assigned to local social service agencies to help, while recruiting more volunteers.
King’s legacy isn’t just about overcoming racial segregation, but also service, the volunteers said. “His dedication to ending poverty” was a motivation for Americorps volunteer Brandon Anderson, 23.
Joy Lile, 23, said she was taught of King as kind of a figurehead, but only recently realized the depth of his message.
“I never really understood ... what he did and why it mattered and how he shaped the country so much,” but she does now, said Joy Lile.
She said she had only recently heard King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, which he gave in Memphis shortly before his assassination in 1968.
Many other volunteers gave their time, perhaps 200 of them, according to Vicki Faust, co-coordinator of the Americorps program at Community Youth Services. Others donated their time to paint and renovate the Boys and Girls Club in Rochester, and clean up and do a book drive at the library there.
Another group helped with the Experiencing Equality event at Madison Elementary School in Olympia.
Still others participated in knitting class and created packages to distribute to homeless students in the Olympia School District.
Some volunteers provided baby-sitting for people who came to the “day of action” at the state capitol, Faust said.
Lastly, another group partnered with at-risk youth from Community Youth Services to make a meal at Garden Raised Urban Bounty, a nonprofit youth gardening organization.
It was a lot of preparation for a big day.
“We’ve been working on these projects for a long time,” Faust said.