Fort McCoy News Jan. 13, 2017

Holiday offers chance to help communities

BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'"
This philosophy is the foundation for the Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service, according to https://www.nationalservice.gov/mlkday. The Day of Service is a part of United We Serve — President Barack Obama's national "call to service" initiative.

This year, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday observance is Jan. 16. According to the website, the day is a way to transform King's life and teachings into community service that helps empower and strengthen local communities.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day graphic
Graphic courtesy of www.nationalservice.gov

"It represents what King stood for because he was a servant to the people, all people, every race, color, creed, age, religion, and gender," said Fort McCoy Equal Opportunity Adviser Master Sgt. Freida Carter. "This was his way of life every day. He gave people hope through the genuine love and care that he had in his heart. He never wavered, nor did he run away. He stayed in the communities that needed and deserved a better way of life, and he solicited other communities, churches, politicians, schools, and throughout the private sector to get support."

People can choose among many different activities to participate in the National Day of Service.

"The activity chosen really depends on the person," Carter said. "It could be something as simple as house repairs for a neighbor who is unable to do it, or fixing a fence in a neighborhood, or shoveling snow for someone who can't do it or who is elderly. Or you could visit someone who doesn't have Family or who rarely gets visitors.

Other opportunities might include helping in underserved communities, Carter said.

"For example, volunteer at women and children's shelters or homeless shelters, or at a hospital. You also can volunteer at your local Red Cross, the Salvation Army, or a soup kitchen," Carter said.

"Just don't sit at home because you have a day off from work. Get your Families involved. Put down your cellphones and go volunteer or help a neighbor."

Some other ideas offered by United We Serve to serve in communities include:

• Recruit and train volunteers to be mentors or tutors.

• Host discussions about King's life, teachings, and his principles of nonviolence and about community challenges and ways to address them.

• Provide job-readiness training in resume writing, interview skills, and dressing for success.

• Provide food assistance, such as bringing meals to homebound neighbors, organizing a food drive, or teaching healthy eating on a budget.

• Improve children's quality of life by building a playground or devising craft projects for children in hospitals.

• Beautify a community by removing graffiti from a building and painting a mural or reclaiming a park or abandoned space for community use.

Carter said in addition to the National Day of Service, any day of the year is a good time to help others.

"Army personnel can make a huge impact by volunteering as a whole unit, too," Carter said. "Showing up in numbers can show communities how, as members of these communities, service members care. It could be something as simple as cleaning up a park, street, highway, or neighborhood that may need beautification. Or a unit could also go to a veterans home or hospital and visit with veterans. To put a smile on the veteran's face and let them know they are appreciated is priceless."

In his 2016 State of the Union address, Obama called on all Americans to serve and support the ideals of King.

"We need every American to stay active in our public life — and not just during election time — so that our public life reflects the goodness and the decency that I see in the American people every single day," Obama said.

For more information about the National Day of Service and United We Serve, visit www.serve.gov. For more information about volunteering at Fort McCoy, call Army Community Service at 608-388-3505.

For information about the Equal Opportunity Program, support, and observances at Fort McCoy, call Carter at 608-388-6153.