Members of the National Junior Honor Society at Kingsview Middle School in Germantown work with members of Alpha Kappa Alpha on service projects. (Courtesy of Xi Sigma Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha)

In 1969, three women followed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s. dream of excelling against difficult odds and changed the course of history, as depicted in the new blockbuster “Hidden Figures.” In 2008, Barack Hussein Obama, followed those same footsteps and became the first black president of the United States of America.

In present day, hundreds of residents across the DMV region gathered Monday for an annual MLK Day of Service event organized by the Montgomery County Volunteer Center, hinged upon Dr. King’s belief that “greatness is determined by service.”

Molly Callaway, director of the volunteer center, expressed the importance of her organization and their event’s variety of family-friendly service projects, including preparing care packages with crocheted blankets, scarves and anti-bullying bracelets for thousands of residents.

“Our MLK Day of Service has been going on since 1999, bringing people of all ages the opportunity to interact with one another and have a chance to make a difference,” Callaway said. “Though … we partner volunteers every day with various nonprofits all across the area, this day of service serves as a special reminder to all of Dr. King’s struggles and accomplishments and his whole idea of taking a stand and making peaceful protests.”

With more than 1,800 participants and volunteers dispersed throughout Bethesda at the North Marriott Conference Center, other residents were seen bustling with activity preparing items like toiletries, material for shoes and food packages in Silver Spring, Gaithersburg and, for the first time, Germantown.

“MLK was really about change for people and aka has been an advocate for people since our inception in 1908 we started out with the intentions of helping all people on all levels,” said Stacey Mangham, president of the Xi Sigma Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, which spearheaded the Germantown event. “Some people are not use to change or uncomfortable with it and so it is our job to press harder and recognize the need for change. We have to make sure that our community is informed about the need for change, the need for civil rights and to make sure that America is a place for everyone.”

At the Germantown event, more than 2,000 care packages were prepared for needy residents.

“You are doomed to repeat yourself if you do not know where you come from and Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy is history that teaches us about serving all mankind, which is also the mission statement of our organization,” said Jacqueline Rose, vice president of Xi Sigma Omega. “In ‘Hidden Figures,’ which takes place in the ’60s, we can see that things are so similar today and that is why Dr. King’s message is so important today.”

Beth Brady, an eighth-grader at Kingsview Middle School and a National Junior Honor Society member, shared her sentiments on why she believes remembering King’s vision is important.

“Martin Luther King’s message, what he believed in, we still need those ideals around today, because we are still facing the same conflicts that he stood up against,” Beth said while preparing hand-knitted hats in Germantown for needy residents. “History repeats itself, but if we can stop it from repeating itself by remembering things that King said, then that’s really good.”

During the MLK Day service events, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett spoke about why keeping King’s legacy alive and creating “an atmosphere of service” is still important.

“This is not a day off for us to do things like shopping, to do things that are not in the spirit of service,” said Leggett, the county’s first black executive. “We have a lot of service events happening all around the county and it is important that we take time to reflect on what this day means and to give back.”

Scott Davison, deputy executive director of Shepherd’s Table, a crisis center in Silver Spring that aims to link people with volunteer opportunities through nonprofits and government agencies, expressed gratitude for being able to participate the event.

“King was a remarkable man and the fact that we can continue on with his legacy by coming to programs like this, with so many diversities and nonprofits is overwhelming,” Davison said. “We service about 2,900 people a year and the majority of those people are minorities and it feels good to represent them and carry on Dr. King’s dream.”

Lauren M. Poteat

Lauren Poteat is a versatile writer with a strong background in communications and media experience with an additional background in education and development.

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