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Community service marks celebration of King's life and legacy

Lonnie Goulet, left, and Katherine Rieth clean the kitchen of the Children's Center on Hilton Head on Saturday morning. The pair were part of a group of volunteers participating in a community service day, one of several area events occurring over the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend. At the Children's Center, volunteers deep cleaned the kitchen and three classrooms, washed the windows inside and out, pressure washed the sidewalks, cleared the gutters and made some playground improvements.
Lonnie Goulet, left, and Katherine Rieth clean the kitchen of the Children's Center on Hilton Head on Saturday morning. The pair were part of a group of volunteers participating in a community service day, one of several area events occurring over the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend. At the Children's Center, volunteers deep cleaned the kitchen and three classrooms, washed the windows inside and out, pressure washed the sidewalks, cleared the gutters and made some playground improvements. Jay Karr/ The Island Packet
  • For Jennifer Gajdolo, Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday is the perfect opportunity to live up his vision of a "beloved community".
  • Gajdolo was one of many who helped organize celebrations on Hilton Head Island and in Bluffton Saturday dedicated to King, born Jan. 15, 1929. The federal holiday honoring the civil rights leaders is celebrated on Monday.

    Hilton Head Island's event consisted of a breakfast at All Saints Episcopal Church followed by community service at the Children's Center, where about 50 volunteers worked to spruce up landscaping and the center's interior.

    The way to live out King's dream of togetherness is to look at the needs of a community and serve one another, hopefully encouraging others to do the same, Gajdolo said.

    There's also the added perk of making friends of strangers by helping others.

    "If you're working side by side with your neighbors, I think it's a great way to get to know them," she said.

    In Bluffton on Saturday evening, a different group gathered to commemorate the life and legacy of King at the 27th annual banquet held at Campbell Chapel AME Church.

    Savannah mayor Otis Johnson was the keynote speaker at the event themed "We are better together".

    Proceeds from the banquet, where King's photograph graced the tables, benefit a number of Bluffton charities, including the Bluffton Community Center and the Boys & Girls Club.

    Kicking off the dinner, 9-year-old Brionna Anderson, a student at Red Cedar Elementary School, read an essay about King's life which ended with a quote from a speech he delivered Feb. 4, 1968:

    "But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That's a new definition of greatness. And this morning, the thing I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve."

    Toastmaster Keith Hamilton emphasized the need to pass King's legacy on to the young.

    "If we're not producing young men and young women to be somebody, we're failing," he said.

    Gajdolo reflected on the elementary school children and teenagers who volunteered at the island event, too young to have lived in the segregated world that shaped King and America.

    The celebrations are also for them, she said.

    "It's a way for them to understand the legacy," she said, "and perhaps appreciate the present by understanding the past."

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