(Natalie Torentinos is FLOC’s Recruitment and Outreach Assistant. She is currently serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA member.)

Volunteers all over the country came together on Monday to pay tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy by making a difference in their local communities.

On the 25th Anniversary of the Martin Luther King Day, often celebrated today as a day of service, For Love of Children was honored to host 35 volunteers from Greater DC Cares. This nonprofit organization is one of the region’s largest volunteer coordinators. For the MLK Day of Service, volunteers were recruited to paint a tutoring space and assess the reading level of children’s books for FLOC’s library.

Pamela Clarke, volunteer Project Manager with Greater DC Cares, coordinated the project at FLOC.

“Throughout the year we try to honor the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King by giving back to the community,” Clarke said, “Today we are mobilizing 2,000 volunteers for community service projects in DC, Maryland and Virginia with schools, non-profits, and soup kitchens.”

Greater DC Cares recruits volunteers by utilizing an online system of regular volunteers and organizing community outreach efforts to connect with new ones. Volunteers are often encouraged to build teams for service projects.

“We reach out to universities, other non-profits and corporations for volunteers. Corporations also provide supplies like paint or ladders. On the calendar we have about 175 non-profits we regularly work with, but at other times we have as many as 300,” Clarke said.

Azundai Chatman is a dedicated DC Cares volunteer who helped create a spreadsheet of leveled books so they could be added to FLOC’s library catalogue. She regularly participates in service projects on MLK Day, and wore her shirt from last year’s project at Cornerstone Elementary School in Southeast.

“I was looking forward to doing something a little different this year,” Chatman said. “I heard about FLOC before and wanted to come. I’ve heard it’s a good organization.”

Working alongside Chatman was Shaylen Foley, a volunteer in her second year with DC Cares. She too wore clothing from last year’s service project, evidenced by colorful spots of paint splattered on her jeans.

“I felt like, I have a day off work this year, so I might as well do something worthwhile with my time and give back,” Foley said.

Another book leveler was Josh Lasky, a first-time DC Cares Volunteer who came with The George Washington University’s Ultimate Frisbee Team, made up of current students and alumni members.

“Obviously it’s an important day for everyone, but our group has been aligned towards service for as long as I can remember,” Lasky said. “We’re about having fun, but we’re also about doing things together so we can give back. During our alumni weekend, this is good thing to do. This is my first year doing this, but the movement is growing. More people are signing up this year.”

Lindsay Mason helped paint FLOC’s tutoring space, transforming it from a lavender shade of purple to a bright daffodil yellow. A social worker by trade, she feels strongly that it takes everyone to give back to their respective communities.

“We’re all working together as a team,” Mason said of her fellow painters. “It’s a lot of fun.”

One of those painters, Tori Pearson, is also a social worker and in her second year participating in the MLK Day of Service.

“Some just see this as a day to stay home from work. For me, I would like people to look at the bigger picture – this is a day to give back,” Pearson said. “This is what Martin Luther King stood for, bettering our communities and helping others.”

From everyone here at FLOC, we’d like to thank all the volunteers who came out to do just that.

To learn more about Greater DC Cares, please go to http://www.greaterdccares.org/HomePage/index.php/home.html.

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