Over 150 volunteers make MLK Day 2015 a "Day On" at Franklin Park

Over 150 volunteers came to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy at SCI’s 2015 MLK Day of Service at Franklin Park in Boston on Monday. Large groups from Northeastern University’s Civic Engagement Program (CEP) and local Boys & Girls Clubs were joined by volunteers of all ages (including several little ones) who decided to make the national holiday a “Day On, Not Off.”
The event, which was funded through a grant from the Massachusetts Service Alliance, was organized in partnership with the Franklin Park Coalition, our hosts for the day. After an introduction from SCI AmeriCorps member and event organizer Asia Garcia, FPC’s Christine Poff led volunteers in an active icebreaker game to help learn each other’s names and kick things off.
SCI’s AmeriCorps members were previously treated to a thought-provoking diversity training by Health Resources in Action’s Mo Barbosa, so we were happy to see him leading a workshop to begin the MLK Day of Service programming. Engaging 150 volunteers is not easy, but Barbosa pulled off the task handily, leading volunteers in activities and discussion related to race, social justice, and service. In one activity, the youngest person at each table stood on chairs to read King’s quotations. Through this exercise, Barbosa pointed out, the voices of young people were (quite literally) elevated, amplifying young voices that can often be overlooked or ignored. Volunteers discussed these quotes and their relevance to current events in small groups, followed by several stories from volunteers about friends and acquaintances who have demonstrated courage in their everyday lives. Barbosa implored volunteers to not only to make the most of their day beautifying Franklin Park, but to make a lifelong commitment to service. In the words of Dr. King, echoed by youth volunteers on Monday, “Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
Next, volunteers bundled up, donning gloves and boots, and headed into Franklin Park's 220-acre urban forest to help save young, native trees that are being smothered by invasive catbrier (latin: smilax) vines that pull down a tree's branches. The tangled, cut vines were put into piles to create habitat for forest animals and compost to enrich the soil. Saving Franklin Park's historic woodlands protects Boston's tree canopy and helps mitigate climate change now and in the future. Clearing the dense catbrier also creates a space that is more welcoming and safe for urban residents. Saving the trees in Franklin Park means that the city's largest green space will always be a place of refuge in Boston for today's and future generations.
SCI would like to thank all of the volunteers who used a day off of work and school to participate in important dialogues and give back to their communities. Thanks also to our partners at Franklin Park Coalition and Massachusetts Service Alliance for making this event possible, as well as Whole Foods, Dunkin’ Donuts and Stop and Shop for donating breakfast. See you next year!