Contributed by Mary Helen Gillen.
Twelve Notre Dame Mission Volunteers AmeriCorps (NDMVA) members participated alongside community volunteers in a Second Harvest Food Bank project to honor Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy. These local AmeriCorps members were joined by hundreds of thousands of volunteers across the country on this national day of service.
The AmeriCorps team packed 24,000 pounds of non-perishable food for distribution in Santa Cruz County within the next few weeks. The bags will provide approximately 18,750 meals to food insecure families. The fresh produce bags packed by the group will be immediately distributed through two of Second Harvest’s nutrition programs: Passion for Produce and Food For Children. Second Harvest Food Bank, together with its network of 200 member agencies, programs and 3,000 volunteers, provides food to 55,000 local residents in need, half of them children.
Dr. King is famously quoted as saying “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’” Participating in volunteer service is especially meaningful on this day when members are able to meet local needs, connect with the community, and celebrate Dr. King’s call to serve.
This year’s commemoration of the MLK Day of Service coincided with the 57th Presidential Inauguration, which included a National Day of Service for January 19 that will include many MLK-related projects. These projects included delivering meals, refurbishing schools and community centers, collecting food and clothing, signing up mentors, reading to children, promoting nonviolence, and more.
The annual MLK Day of Service shines a spotlight on service as a powerful force to bridge economic and social divides throughout the year. National Days of Service provide each of us with an opportunity to join neighbors and local leaders to tackle community challenges and strengthen the nation.
Notre Dame Mission Volunteers AmeriCorps was founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in 1994 with six volunteers and has since grown to over 400 members serving in 23 cities nationwide. In Watsonville, fourteen young adults from as far as Manchester, New Hampshire and as close as Watsonville are five months into their year of service. Most members regularly provide full-time academic support in classrooms across the city in regular day and after school programming. Three members serve directly with Second Harvest, providing cooking and nutrition classes, and assisting agencies with food access for families all over Santa Cruz County. To learn more about Notre Dame Mission Volunteers AmeriCorps, please visit ndmva.org.
The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is the federal agency that leads the annual MLK Day of Service, working with the King Center in Atlanta and thousands of nonprofit groups, faith-based organizations, and schools and businesses nationwide. CNCS is a federal agency that engages millions of Americans in service each year through its core programs, Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and the Social Innovation Fund and leads President Obama's national call to service initiative, United We Serve. Visit NationalService.gov for more information.