For our AmeriCorps VISTA service project in honor of Martin Luther King Day, we participated in the MLK Blvd. clean up project run by the Office of State Representative Dawnna Dukes and supported by United Way for Greater Austin on Saturday, January 19th. Joining a force of 420 volunteers, we picked up trash along East MLK Blvd. between Airport Blvd. and Tannehill Ln, a span of about two miles.
To kick off the event, we heard from several speakers who reminded us of the significance of volunteering in the Austin community, including Rep. Dukes, Mayor Leffingwell, and the President of Huston-Tillotson University, Dr. Larry Earvin. We learned that Austin previously ranked towards the lowest in rate of volunteerism among metropolitan areas in the U.S. In 2011 Austin jumped ranks to 9th out of 51 for volunteerism in metropolitan areas, and that number continues to grow.
As AmeriCorps VISTAs, we focus on strengthening non-profit organizations from behind the scenes by building capacity. The MLK Day of Service was a unique opportunity for us to make an immediate impact in the community by getting out of the office to do direct service; In this case, beautifying MLK Blvd.
Walking back along the road, the path we once walked through full of bottle caps, cigarette butts, and broken car lights, was now a beautiful street that reflected the respect and caring for community that MLK Day stands for. It was a day for us to represent both AmeriCorps VISTA and Creative Action in the east Austin community in the spirit of what Dr. King said is “life’s most persistent and urgent question…’What are you doing for others?’”
Fun Fact: This project totaled 1,260 volunteer hours equaling $27,606.60 back to the community in volunteer time. (Nikki Krueger, United Way for Greater Austin)
By Corinna Archer (Programs Associate VISTA) and Erik Weasenforth (Marketing Associate VISTA)