Honoring King’s legacy

As community members walked down Memorial Avenue, it wasn’t difficult for them to remember why they were there. Passing street signs that read Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on their way to Lycoming College, volunteers had gathered to celebrate King’s message of serving the community during a day of service Saturday.

Throughout the day, volunteers put together 600 family fun packs, which included board games, snacks and winter wear, that will be distributed to area students this week. It was King’s call for service that motivated them to participate.

“If your community is not behind you, then what do you have?” said Joseph Walker Jr., AmeriCorps member, on the importance of serving the community.

The day started by community volunteers walking from the corner of Campbell Street and Memorial Avenue, to Lycoming College. This, Walker explained, was to show how, although everyone comes from different walks of life, they are all one community.

“Some of us have been in our neighborhoods for 10 or 15 years and don’t know our neighbors,” he said.

After they made their way to the college’s recreation center, family packs began being assembled.

“The goal of today is to be in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. in helping anybody,” said AmeriCorps member Maria Vidal-Huertas.

All of the items in the packs were donated by local businesses.

“We just got overwhelming support from our community,” Walker said of the donations.

The packs will be distributed to sixth-grade students in the Williamsport Area School District, fourth- and fifth-grade students in the Keystone Central School District and other community agencies.

Walker said as students grow older, quality time as a family becomes more and more scarce, which was the motivation behind the packs.

“We want to bring family time back to the family,” he said.

Mark McKenney and Sean Wilson, Lycoming students, were on hand with fraternity brothers to help during the event.

“(Community service) is important because something that we lost is the sense of community,” Wilson said.

The idea of community and coming together as one was an oft discussed on the day that the community not only served, but mourned for the loss of one of its members.

State Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, who had come to the event after attending the funeral of Terell Henderson-Littles – a member of the community who was shot and killed earlier this month – said it is time the community stand up and do what’s right.

He added, “We’re all in this together,” and urged community members to speak up against violence and wrong doing, like King did.

“We have to stand up.” Mirabito said. “Stand up for righteousness. Stand up for what’s right.”

But even in the emotional times, volunteers remained in good spirits as they tried to do their part in the community.

“(Community service) elevates you. It empowers you. It nourishes you,” said John Kiernan, who remembers when King visited the area. “When you lose yourself in service, you find yourself.”

Walker has a vested interest in the community, as his nieces and nephews are growing up in it. He said he wants to serve it to show them “strong role models.”

And throughout the day, Walker said he could see that the message of the day was being received. The community was coming together.

“We’re not all white. We’re not all black. We’re not all old. We’re not all young,” he said. “But we can come together for one cause.”