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UW-Bothell/Cascadia students’ community efforts continue Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy

On a cloudy Saturday morning when most people would be at home sleeping in, or getting ready to watch football playoff games, or complaining about the less-than-stellar weather, students from the University of Washington, Bothell and Cascadia Community College packed Mobius Hall, prepared to spend a day serving the community as a way of celebrating the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, in its fifth year at the local college campus, featured 88 student volunteers completing 13 projects around the Northshore area, ranging from pulling invasive plants out of wetlands to painting at a food bank to socializing with seniors at a local retirement home.

Last Saturday morning started off with an inspirational talk from UW-Bothell Chancellor Kenyon Chan, who recalled his work and training with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the organization founded by Dr. King. Chan, training at Stanford University, was only three days away from starting his work on Dr. King’s staff when Dr. King was killed. Chan said the tragedy “really renewed all of us” and strengthened the desire to continue his work. Chan emphasized that the Day of Service represents the thousands of students nationwide who are committed to the legacy of so many 15-, 16- and 17-year olds who “put their life on the line for our future” during the 1950s-'60s civil-rights movement.

Kara Casey Adams, one of the co-organizers for the Day of Service, described the event as “service learning,” which is a combination of volunteering and learning, and then reflecting on it.

“I personally have learned so much through it,” she added. Adams went on to say how the Day of Service is really important for students, because it gets them working and learning outside the classroom, and is a great opportunity to gain leadership experience, learn about social justice and encourage community involvement.

At one project location, the community-run Maltby Food Bank, Angel Diko said she was eager to help a good cause as she dabbed green paint on a wall in the food bank’s main front room, saying it’s not work “as long as you are helping people.” Xheni Diko added, “This is a way to see how far we’ve come as a community and nation ... when there is so much trouble in society, it’s nice to know good things are still happening.” Andie Bindon, who took a break from painting to mend some moving dollies, said she came out simply “because I just like painting. It’s fun, especially if it helps someone.”

At the city of Bothell Public Works facility near Thrasher’s Corner, Adam Fletcher of the Bothell Parks Department led a crew of seven volunteers to remove Scotch Broom from a wetland area. Andrew Sambrook described “the personal pride of seeing all the weeds gone” as they neared the end of the job. Bev Hovda, one of Sambrook’s co-volunteers, said she picked that project because she “loves all the wildlife and birds, so it’s a good opportunity to help them.”

Many ducks, herons, hawks and red-wing blackbirds call Bothell’s wetlands home, and they almost certainly appreciate the efforts of Sambrook and Hovda. “Contractors are good at doing that,” Fletcher called out across the pond, “just throwing their stuff everywhere!” as Christina Schultz pulled a large plastic bag out of the stormwater retention pond. By the end of the project, the crew had piled up an entire truckfull of invasive plants under the watchful eye of a red-tailed hawk sitting in a nearby tree.

Another group of students spent the day collecting food at local grocery stores. Shawna Morris, team leader who was stationed at the Canyon Park Albertson’s, said she was trying hard to put the word out to customers that the drive was for MLK Day and that all the food benefitted the local community. She was pleasantly surprised at the amount of people who had donated, especially those who even just gave money if they didn’t have time to purchase food. One customer even donated a 96-count pack of baby diapers. As Morris was taking mental inventory of the collected food, Cascadia student Kristine Kolden exited the store with a bag full of food purchased with donated money, saying she “got a mixture of everything ... baby food, pasta, beans, rice” and other items that are in high demand at food banks.

At the QFC near Pop Keeney Stadium, Zach Legat and Faith Neill had filled two boxes of food, partially with the help of a lady who brought some food over from a Christmas food drive that she hadn’t yet been able to take to Hopelink. “The Lord blessed me with some free coupons today,” one lady remarked as she handed several cans of food to Neill.

Another volunteer group, including Cascadia student Ian James, went to Vineyard Park Retirement Home to play history Jeopardy with the elderly residents. James said everyone enjoyed socializing a lot, and he personally loved hearing the residents share so many personal experiences, saying he was amazed that despite the seniors “having a hard time remembering specific history facts, they could remember personal past experiences perfectly.”

One of the remaining projects was at Woodlands Park, in the North Rose Hill Neighborhood of Kirkland, where students and community members removed invasive plants and replaced them with tree seedlings, planting more than 1,000 new trees in just three hours. Kai Fouts said a large amount of people from the neighborhood showed up, making the work go quickly. Fouts came out to help partly because of the extra credit one of his teachers offered, but also because “it’s great to go outside your comfort zone and do something you wouldn’t normally do to help the community.”

Back at the campus, volunteers were served a free lunch as they listened to Eric Davis, a UW-Bothell instructor and motivational speaker. Davis described the legacy of Dr. King as “mostly about service” but also added, “Go to school, take your studies seriously. That is what celebrating Dr. King is about, that’s what he would want.”

Davis told the students to take the positive feelings they got volunteering and decide to keep doing that work, and to also share that enjoyment with their peers and get more people involved next year. Davis said too much of society is about pulling apart with the idea that someone has to suffer for someone else to benefit, reminding the volunteers that they benefitted in unseen ways from helping others. He closed by saying too many people say, “If I do this, what does it mean for me?” when the question should be reversed to say, “If I do not help, what will it do to them?”

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