Hundreds volunteer for MLK Day of Service

Jan. 21, 2013 @ 03:33 PM

Just when it seemed that some of the volunteers at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service in Chapel Hill might be heading home Monday morning, suddenly about a hundred new ones showed up at the door.
Starting at 9 a.m. volunteers sat down at tables both upstairs and downstairs to work on various projects, including assembling birthday party kits for children at shelters, hygiene kits for homeless people, baby blankets and teddy bears, as well as pockets for people who use walkers to hold their belongings. They also collected and sorted food.
At one table, three teenage boys from Grey Stone Baptist Church in Durham sewed simple brown teddy bears. Some of the teens had never picked up a needle and thread in their lives and were trying to master the art of the blanket stitch to sew the two pieces of brown felt together.
Will Mangum, 14, learned how to thread a needle for the first time.
“When you’re getting started, it’s tough but once you figure it out, it’s easy,” Mangum said.
Deoin January, 17, sewed a couple of teddy bears despite having his left hand in a cast.
“I have no limits,” January said. “I will not let that stop me.”
Jonathan Zimmerman’s first bear didn’t turn out quite right, but the second one did.
“I’m going to art school so I’ve done a little bit of sewing, but not a lot,” said Zimmerman, 17. “I’m by no means a pro.”
Despite the lack of sewing ability, they hoped their bears would bring comfort to a child some day.
“I’m thinking about maybe a little kid will play with this, and he’ll enjoy it,” Mangum said.
Richard Brown and his wife, Rachael Murphey-Brown, brought their two daughters Tavara, 10, and Octavia, 6, to spend a few hours working for others. It’s becoming a tradition for the family, he said.
“I thought this was a wonderful event for the family,” he said. “I think it’s well coordinated and it has a wonderful spirit of people who meet here. I always meet three or four people that I didn’t know.”
While some of the older children worked on sewing projects, the younger ones sat at tables coloring on placemat-sized pieces of paper. Later their work will be laminated, and the placemat will be distributed to soup kitchens and shelters to brighten up the tables.
Andrew Davis, 27, from Greensboro came with his group called “Public Allies,” which is a leadership program for young adults who want to go into nonprofit work.
Davis grabbed a set of crayons and began coloring.
“They said either nature or anything to do with fruits and vegetables,” Davis explained. “I did leaves on top of water.”
The real point of the morning was to give service to others. Davis won’t know who might eat a meal on his placemat, and Mangum can only imagine that his teddy bear might comfort a frightened child.
“It’s all about giving our time, serving,” Davis said. “It’s making a difference in our communities.”
The inauguration of President Barack Obama was shown on a large screen at one end of the room.
The event was held at Extraordinary Ventures Event Center, a center that provides employment for people with autism and other developmental disabilities, on South Elliott Road.
The United Way of the Greater Triangle hosted the event, along with 27 other projects throughout the region, including signature projects in Durham, Johnston and Wake counties.
Between 300 and 400 volunteers were expected at the Chapel Hill event, according to Jennifer R. Bosk, vice president of marketing and communications for the Triangle United Way.
Following the morning event in Chapel Hill, the Red Cross was scheduled to hold a blood drive at the center.