Addressing an audience in Montgomery, Alabama in 1957, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Life’s most urgent and persistent question is, what are you doing for others?” Over the holiday weekend commemorating the civil rights leader’s birth, Montgomery County residents answered that question by participating in a variety of community service activities.
Shernette Hall, a local teacher, recruited volunteers from her Meetup groups to serve brunch at the Children’s Inn at NIH on Sunday morning.
“I thought this would be a nice thing to do for sick children and their families,” said Hall, who volunteers at a variety of different events throughout the year. “MLK gave back to other people, and I like to follow his example.”
Among those who attended the brunch were Margaret Harris of Brisbane, Australia and her family. Harris’ daughter Elizabeth is being treated at NIH for Cushing’s disease, a rare glandular affliction which Harris said has not been treated in a child in Australia for many years.
“We’re thrilled that so many nice people from the community came to serve,” Harris said. “It’s wonderful to be spoiled, particularly when you’re so far from home and you’re not familiar with the surroundings so much.”
Harris said she and her family enjoyed having the opportunity to visit several historic American sites during their stay, including the Martin Luther King Memorial.
“In Australia, schoolchildren study the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech as a powerful piece of persuasive language,” Harris said, adding that the civil rights issues that Australians are most familiar with are the plight of their country’s Aborigine population and the former apartheid system of segregation in nearby South Africa.
On Monday, the Montgomery County chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority sponsored a variety of service activities at the Silver Spring Civic Building. Attendees had the opportunity to visit more than 20 stations at the building operated by various charitable organizations. Activities included creating care packages for and writing letters to homeless persons transitioning into housing, senior citizens, military personnel and other groups.
“Public service is part of our mission, and so it makes sense for us to come out and do something like this today,’ said Latonyia Wade, President of the Montgomery County chapter of Delta Sigma Theta. “Dr. King was an honorable man. He was giving back to the community, making sure that we put others before ourselves, and I’m inspired by that.”
Wade said that attendance had grown steadily since the sorority first sponsored the event four years ago and that she expected approximately 1200 people to attend.
Rebelle with a Cause, a Burtonsville-based company dedicated to empowering victims of domestic violence in Montgomery and Howard Counties, was among the participating organizations. They collected women’s’ personal care items to donate to the Silver Spring-based anti-poverty organization A Wider Circle.
The City of Gaithersburg partnered with Montgomery Serves and Seneca Creek Community Church to host a variety of service projects at the church on Monday morning.
Activities included assembling overnight bags for foster children, dog toys for animal shelters, and participating in a “Caring Community” digital image montage.
“To me, there’s a substance to it in that we are doing things that are actually needed in the community and volunteering for worthwhile causes,” said Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman. “There’s a symbolic element to it that’s very important, too. We shape the destiny of our community, and this day is sort of a reminder of how the decisions we make affect our community. It’s wonderful to see a great turnout here today.”