For dozens of volunteers in Frederick, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday went from a day off to a day on — a day to give back to the community.
A Star in Western Maryland, a program focused on western Maryland counties including Frederick, brought the MLK Day of Service to the Arc at Market Street.
On Monday, volunteers of all ages joined the AmeriCorps project. There were hats made through Glories Happy Hats, which go to critically ill children. There were blankets sewn — for chemotherapy patients, those experiencing homelessness, wounded veterans and sick children, plus pillows for senior centers. There were also cards for first responders and members of the military.
About 175 volunteers decided to spend the holiday helping others, said Lisa Clark, director of the program.
Clark was not sure how many blankets, pillows or hats were made Monday, but last year they made 200 blankets and pillows. She projected it would be similar this year.
This was the second year the event was held at the Arc, but the 25th year AmeriCorps has held an event. It is a day to reflect and do service, Clark said.
“In honor of Martin Luther King Jr., it’s a day on, not a day off,” she said.
The day is one to reflect on those who lost their lives trying to better the country, said Guy Djoken, executive director of the UNESCO Center for Peace.
“This is the one day we get a break and come together,” he said.
The Day of Service also presents the opportunity to bring younger generations together with older ones. Djoken brought an intern with him that who had never volunteered before, he said.
Now, she and others her age were creating cards for first responders and military service members. Elsewhere, young children helped tie blankets and pillows.
“Look at what they’re doing,” Djoken said. “Taking their time and thinking about others.”
The event also pulled in service-oriented organizations such as Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first black sorority. Andrea Wiggins is a member of one of the sorority’s chapters and came Monday for the first time. She is new to the area and wanted to find a Day of Service.
The sorority’s priority is service, she said.
“It’s kind of second nature to want to do for others,” Wiggins said.
And having the children and young people participate shows them ways to incorporate service into their lives.
“It’s a way of giving back — leaving their footprint in the world,” she said.
Ashlee Rowles and Armoni Jackson, sophomores at Hood College, spent the morning making cards and blankets. They heard about the program through the college’s honors program, Rowles said.
She enjoyed getting to talk with others and seeing people from different backgrounds join together to complete a project.
The world is interconnected, Jackson said. What happens to one person can affect others, and people never know when they might be in a position where they need help.
She said she loved being able to give back.
“I definitely want to come back next year,” Jackson said.
Tera German, of Middletown, brought her three young children and her husband to the service day. She is a social worker, so service and helping others is an important aspect in her life, and one she wants to pass on to her children.
She brought them so they could see others taking their time to help their community. At the same time, they could make cards or tie blankets, since the event was family-oriented.
“I think it’s great to have so many activities and so many that are kid-friendly,” she said. “And everyone is here for the same purpose, which is nice.”