Clayton resident Adrien Harris adjusts daughter Addy's apron in the main room of the Boys and Girls Club of Johnston County.
SELMA -- While many people slept in on Monday, 51 people converged on the Boys and Girls Club to make artwork for seniors, cut cloth blankets for children and assemble hygiene kits for the homeless.
It was part of the United Way’s Day of Service, which brought more than 1,400 volunteers to events around the Triangle on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The events were so popular that space was at a premium. People from as far away as Raleigh, Apex and Holly Springs came to Selma because their local events were full.
Participants as young as 3 joined in. Some of them were local Boys and Girls Club members fulfilling their service hours; others came representing companies and sororities. Others had no affiliation at all.
“It’s such a massive project,” said Edwin Jeffords, a staff member with Triangle United Way. “We’ve got all kinds.”
The volunteer work had a personal significance for Tim Williams, a Selma resident and student at Johnston Community College. Williams’ house burned down in 2002, forcing is family to move in with his grandmother. “We had a family of four living in a single-wide trailer,” he said.
Williams, who was assembling hygiene kits full of soap, toothpaste and other toiletries, remembers receiving them from the Red Cross while he was at his grandmother’s trailer. The packages provided much-needed relief to the family, since his grandmother was short on supplies.
“She had enough for her, but she wasn’t prepared for all of us,” Williams said.
Many of the volunteers on Monday were families – parents who wanted to show their children the value of volunteer work. Susan Rabideau of Apex came with her 13-year-old daughter, Madeline, and Madeline’s friend, Morgan Topol. The three of them painted flower pots that will eventually go to senior centers and nursing homes around Johnston County.
“I wanted her to have an experience like this; she’s finally old enough to give back and contribute to the community,” Rabideau said of her daughter.
“Teenagers can be so focused on themselves. It can be hard to get them to focus on other people.”
Adrien Harris of Clayton saw the Day of Service as a chance to introduce his children – 8-year-old Addy and 4-year-old Adrien – to the late civil-rights activist.
“One of the things I try to get them to understand is how fortunate they are,” said Harris, who is black. “(And) one of the things Dr. King talked about was getting involved in the community.”
King was deeply concerned with poverty as well as racial inequality. It became a focus of his just before his assassination in 1968.
In 1994 – 11 years after his birthday was declared a national holiday – Congress declared Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national day of service.
A couple of hours into the volunteer event in Selma, Mamie Moore, director of the Boys and Girls Club of Johnston County, gathered everyone to reflect on the reason for the day of service. She also asked a couple of volunteers to read portions of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, given on the Washington Mall in 1963.
Many of the volunteers were at the club for the first time. Karon Harrison of Clayton said she was unaware of the club but could see its importance in central Johnston County.
“There’s more of a need here,” Harrison said.
Moore said days of service often bring in new club members. “I’ve gotten three new members today,” she said. “That’s a windfall.”
Like many of the volunteers, Kim Dayberry was drawn in by a service-hours requirement – in this case for her son’s high school. But she said she plans to come back.
“This will be the first of many,” Dayberry said.