Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Maggie Garvey's Remarks at Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service

AmeriCorps Member Emma Gifford and VISTA Member
Jennifer Gosnell welcoming volunteers.
Good morning and thank you for joining us today to celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service!  I want to tell you a bit about this holiday in hopes that you will leave here with an inspired vision of how each of you today are a part of a nationwide day of service and a nationwide movement that intends to prove that everyday people, every day volunteers like you an me, have the capacity to change our communities and our nation and make real King's vision of the beloved community.

Volunteers registering for their service projects
I came to National Service in 2006 to serve with AmeriCorps VISTA in Prescott Valley. In 2007, I stepped into the first coordinator position for the Project. Thanks to the tireless efforts of service members who have served since then, our project began to grow and today we have over 30 National Service members serving throughout Yavapai County.  More than that, we have a strong partnership with an AmeriCorps State program hosted out of Community Counts. Working together as Serve Yavapai, we offer capacity building and direct service opportunities to our communities. Our joint mission is to help build and sustain the efforts of Yavapai County service providers and community members to continually improve the quality of life across the region.

In the spirit of fulfilling that mission, we are honored to support and organize the MLK Day of Service holiday as part of creating healthy and just communities.  In 1983, Congress created a federal holiday marking the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a nationally recognized holiday. In 1994, Congress designated the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday as a National Day of Service. The MLK Day of Service is a way to honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and teachings by dedicating yourself to community action that helps solve social problems. 
This is our fifth year planning this event and each year it continues to grow and build upon itself! Much of this events success is directly related to the wonderful event organizers we have had in the past and continue to have serving in our community. This year, thanks to the efforts of our wonderful event planner and VISTA Leader Erika Stone, this project is for the second year in a row officially county wide.

As we gather here today, more Yavapai County residents are gathered in Beaver Creek/ RimRock Lake Montezuma. They are engaged in a variety of projects including assisting homebound community members and protecting Montezuma’s Well the National Monument by doing clearing and restoration work. More Yavapai County residents are gathered writing letter to our troops and working with youth in juvenile probation and detention to connect these youth to the importance of giving and the importance of being needed by your community.
 Our county is active today!!! There can be no doubt that Yavapai County did not take a day off today and instead, we are ON!

Our county wide efforts are a piece of a statewide effort with projects organized and mobilized across the state—in Tucson and  Phoenix on tribal lands and in small towns like ours. Our state joins a nationwide effort on this day with over 3,500 projects organized across the country each project like ours brining people together from all parts of our community and all walks of life to work to make our communities stronger, healthier, and better able to meet the needs of those among us that are the most vulnerable.

VISTA Member Yanina Rivera helping out
at the Granite Peak Neighborhood Project
Each year of our participation in this event has had its own memorable experiences.  This year, I am called to speak about unity. As each of us sits here, the election season in this country is whipping up. The divisive and polarizing forces are working around the clock to split hairs between the candidates and split the public into divided camps.
At a time when the world feels sometimes dangerously divided, we here do something truly radical and at the same time so beautifully natural. We unite, not despite our differences, but in recognition of our differences - in recognition of our differences, and in support of our community.  We unite with each other, and we protect our space together, by clarifying our joint purpose, by apologizing when feelings get hurt and by accepting that this union is a precious one.  But we still unite, knowing that what divides us is so small, so insignificant, compared to the ocean of need that demands our united action. 

We are wise enough to know that a hungry child cares nothing for politics but cares desperately about the well of our compassion.  That our creeks care not whose hand removes the trash that prevents its’ flow and that our nonprofit organizations will take all the help they can get responding the shocking increase in demand for their services.  
We know what today is about and we know what it will take to build the beloved community. It will take unity and compassion and the release of all things not as important as the challenges we stand here today to meet.

When we refuse to focus on what divides us and instead stay true to unity and to the calling of serving those in need, we honor Dr. King with fierce loyalty to his legacy.
Dr. King said, “I have decided to stick with love- because hate is too great a burden to bear.” Each of us has decided to stick with love today. We have done this by signing a pledge to be nonviolent and to do good deeds for the next 40 days. And we have decided to stick with love by serving and giving to others.

Our strongest hope is that today becomes a form of active reflection and dedication for each of us — when we focus with our hearts and with our deeds on repairing the divisions, erasing those invisible lines that set us apart from each other. And if you haven’t already, make today the first day of a year long and a lifelong commitment to the service of others.

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