Outdoors or indoors, for the benefit of friends or strangers, volunteers gathered across Napa County on Monday to serve their community to honor the memory of America’s iconic civil rights leader.
A variety of groups marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day with volunteering efforts that ranged from collection drives for homeless Napans or soldiers serving abroad, to restoring local woodlands and school gardens, to cleaning up walking and cycling trails.
In Napa, the effort to put King’s aspirations of selfless service toward others took forms as thoughtful as a “truth telling” discussion to ponder King’s vision of a “beloved community” free of racism and poverty – or as gently offbeat as the “love cards” children and seniors alike carefully made from colored paper, markers and uplifting messages at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church Parish Hall, the hub for many of the holiday’s activities.
“We thought that sometimes, these events can be overwhelming and people need something simple to feel like they’re contributing,” said Laura Keller of Napa County Public Health, who has organized the love-card campaign for three years. “People can take these love cards and pass them on as a random act of kindness, pass it on to a stranger in the street. The idea is that in your daily life, you can show compassion with small acts of kindness.”
“We live in such a divisive time, and people forget we’re much more alike as humans than any difference we have.”
Among the early arrivals Monday morning were Paulina Fernandez and Priscilla Galvin, teenage Napa friends whose next destination, cards in hand, would be the Gott’s on First Street.
“It made us feel pretty good about ourselves, making people feel special if they’re going through something in life,” said Galvin, 16, as she and 17-year-old Fernandez set to work on their heart-patterned messages.
Elsewhere at Parish Hall, a team of mostly young adult volunteers serving with CalSERVES AmeriCorps set to work packing toiletries, food items and other necessities into care kits to be handed to at least 150 women and children at local homeless shelters later in the day.
“Our community really pulls through for this – we see 50 percent of our collections coming the day of the event,” said Brandie Dugan, coordinator of the collection drive. “I think this event brings the community together in a beautiful, strong way. Kids come in here, with our without their families, and say ‘What can I do? How can I help? It’s the best thing a kid can say and this is a great opportunity to do that.”
“It definitely feels good – definitely feels like I’m helping the community,” said Imbamba Mansaray, 25, a Portland, Oregon native who served as one of the AmeriCorps volunteers.
To cap the federal holiday, a public celebration of King, who was born 90 years ago last week, was scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the Napa Valley College Performing Arts Center. Scheduled speakers include Josefina Hurtado, executive director of Puertas Abiertas; Hilary Zunin, president of Napa Valley CanDo; and Terence Mulligan, chief executive of the Napa Valley Community Foundation.