Written by Tanya Terry
The success of this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service surpassed the expectations of even the event’s organizers! It was the sixth year United Way of Genesee County had planned a communitywide event for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The event was held at the Dort Financial Credit Union and Event Center and attended by Congressman Dan Kildee.
“It was great to be back after a two-year COVID break,” said Jamie-Lee Venable, vice president, Operations for United Way of Genesee County (UWGC).
“Everyone seemed excited to be back serving the community together,” Lee-Venable added. “Pre-COVID we would have 750+ volunteers packing meals, and we were hoping for 500 this year. Unsure how people would respond to volunteering together still in a pandemic, we were blown away to have over 625 volunteers that morning. We met our goal of packing 200,000 meals and were able to give them 29 pantries throughout the county. ”
Each bag volunteers and AmeriCorps members packed provided a meal for a family of four. According to information provided by the United Way of Genesee County, nearly one in five Genesee County residents struggle with food insecurity on a daily basis.
“This event is the largest event in the county that provides community members the ability to honor Dr. King’s legacy through service,” Lee-Venable stated. “Volunteers that come choose to make the day a day on for service instead of a day off.”
Venable explained that even during the pandemic, the UWGC held activities. These activities were closed to the public, with only AmeriCorps members serving.
“The Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service is a defining moment each year when Americans across the country step up to make communities more equitable and take action to create the Beloved Community of Dr. King’s dream. MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a National Day of Service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities. The UWGC chooses to make the holiday a ‘day on’ for community members to service instead of a day off. Dr. King believes…. ‘everybody can be great because anyone can serve.’ The UWGC believes the best way to continue his legacy is giving our neighbors the chance to serve.”
Huntington Bank was the presenting sponsor for the event. Huntington not only provided funding for the event, but they also sent more than 40 volunteers! The bank created a team event on the United Way’s Genesee Serves platform and sent it out to encourage registration.
Jersey Mike’s-Davison sponsored the volunteers’ meals.
The event as a whole was also supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.