BETHESDA – More than 5,000 county residents spent Martin Luther King Jr. Day packaging food, making blankets and cleaning parks during the 25th annual MLK Day of Service.
The 2,500 people who packed the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center did a myriad of projects to help veterans, the homeless, the sick and the needy.
Gaithersburg’s Katie Musick, who came with her girl school troop, said, “I feel like everyone needs to volunteer some time in their life.”
Her fellow girl scout, Megan Stallard, 10, agreed, noting, “It’s a day of service. We wanted to help.”
Twelve-year-old Carli Tamulonis and her mother, Christine Li of Bethesda, helped by rolling up new pairs of bright, white socks and then tying a ribbon around them.
By the end of the two-hour event, 318 socks had been rolled, which will be given to veterans in hospitals next month, said Gloria Herndon, who oversaw the Diabetic Sock Roll.
“We’ve been doing this the last 12 or 13 years,” she said.
Getting from one project to the next was not easy in the very crowded conference center in which there seemed to be people waiting in lines for every project.
After receiving a cardboard box, a continual line of people slowly walked by a long table, taking one food item from each pile and then placing it in their box.
Those 340 completed boxes filled high with food will be distributed to those receiving Meals on Wheels and to the Jewish Social Service Agency in Rockville.
Nearby, a table full of young people decorated bags. Each bag was then stuffed with a hat, blanket, gloves and socks for the homeless and domestic abuse survivors. The Soda Fund in Potomac conducted that project.
Still, other volunteers made fleece blankets, snipping the ends for fringe decoration.
The 200 blankets created during the volunteer day of service will be donated to Montgomery Hospice patients who are veterans, said Christiane Wiese, director of volunteer services at Montgomery County Hospice.
Other volunteers crafted Valentine’s cards for seniors.
About halfway through the event, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich addressed the crowd. “This is the most people I’ve ever seen in this room. You should be very proud of yourself. You make us look good. I really want to thank you for what you do today.”
Council President Sidney Katz echoed those sentiments, noting he was there “to say two words – thank you.”
Katz declared the event something King would have appreciated. Referring to Rev. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” Katz said, “This is a dream come true.”
Earlier, Councilman Gabe Albornoz said he, too, was pleased to see so many people.
“This is such a great way for the entire county to come together and support our neighbors,” Albornoz said. There is no better way to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King then to pay it forward.”
There were numerous volunteer activities spread throughout the county. About 800 residents volunteered at the Silver Spring Civic Center, where they did similar projects. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Montgomery County Alumnae Chapter, hosted that event.
Some people helped clean up area parks and streams throughout the weekend; Others did service projects at the Bauer Drive Community Center in Rockville, which was sponsored by Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Eta Pi Zeta Chapter.
Almost 500 people participated at Seneca Creek Community Church, and another 500 volunteered at Journey’s Crossing in Germantown in an event sponsored by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Xi Sigma Omega Chapter.
Three hundred people turned out at Shaare Tefila Congregation in Olney, in an event jointly sponsored by the synagogue, MedStar Montgomery Medical Center and the Greater Olney Interfaith Clergy Association and coordinated by Leadership Montgomery.