Jimmy Peck makes it a tradition to volunteer on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Last year he prepared candy baskets, on years past he had worked on organizing bicycles, helping out at a food pantry and painting at a children’s center. This year he was moving cribs and furnishing at the United Inner City Services Early Learning Center in Kansas City.
“It feels right to get out and do something on this day,” Peck said.
The well-ingrained holiday tradition is impressive considering Peck is 13-years-old. On January 18 he was joined by his brother Lucas, who is 10, and his father Josh. They were volunteering as members of Church of the Resurrection, and after their volunteer shift they traditionally go out for barbeque. Josh knew volunteers were needed this year more than ever, and he wasn’t going to let a pandemic deride their family tradition. The boys were already attending in-person school, and he was confident in the way the church takes precautions.
“They have been very aware of taking the necessary safety measures,” he said.
Church of the Resurrection facilitate more than 600 adults and children serving at 20 agencies in the Kansas City area on Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, on both Saturday and Monday, as an event billed as a Day On!. Masks wearing was 100 percent, and work groups were kept small and separated.
Ashley Malone was working in the kitchen at Operation Breakthrough, a Kansas City program serving children in poverty. Her Martin Luther King Jr. Day tradition with COR started several years ago, when the church would do educational bus tours through the city, discussing history and current issues. When it shifted to service projects she stayed with it, and appreciates the church’s approach to making the day off a Day On.
“Everyone can give back, be it with money, time or resources,” she said. “I feel very fortunate to be able to volunteer here today. They haven’t had their usual volunteers coming in due to the coronavirus, and things have piled up as they only have the time to deal with the highest priorities.”
She was working in the kitchen with Sally Lara, who has been attending Resurrection Downtown for about a year and half. Lara’s been inspired by Adam Hamilton’s sermons lately and is considering joining the church. She remembers the day King was assassinated and believes volunteering in his name is important.
“Helping people who don’t have as much as you is one way to make peace,” Lara said. “Plus, it’s tons of fun.”
Rev. Patick McLaughlin, community pastor at Church of the Resurrection Downtown, credited the agencies with providing worthwhile volunteer experiences, which makes them great partners for their church.
"Our philosophy is to provide an entry point for folks who’ve never served before. From there I encourage them to form a unique long-term relationship with an agency that gives them a deep sense of gladness," McLaughlin said. "We also succeed because we know people need rhythms and patterns in which to organize their life around. We do big annual events like MLK serve days where people look forward to being a part of something big. We also conduct consistent monthly service events on 3rd Saturdays so people know to count on it and know they can count on it if they invite friends."
Brian Nowotny has been attending Resurrection Downtown for a little over a year and was drawn to the church because of the opportunities it offers to serve the community.
“I’m really impressed with what they are doing,” he said. He’s been active with the church’s Serve Saturdays program, and was excited to volunteer at Operation Breakthrough on his Monday off.
“When I saw an opportunity to help a great partner in education like this, I jumped at the chance,” Nowotny said. “Operation Breakthrough does great work in Kansas City.”
Volunteer Sally Stein has been part of Resurrection Downtown for three years, and feels now is an important time to be active.
“With everything that has gone on in the past year, it is important to get out in the community and help, and meet people,” she said.
Megan Hayslett was volunteering at Shelter KC Men’s Center through Church of the Resurrection even though is not part of that church. She works for KeyBank Real Estate Capital in Overland Park, KS, and received an email from the corporate office’s African Heritage business resource group that advised employees on ways to celebrate MLK, and included a link to sign up to volunteer through Church of the Resurrection. She shared the link in their local newsletter, and signed up herself.
Hayslett was working with Lauren Arney, a resident physician who has already been vaccinated. The two spent the day painting, and Arney’s
fiancé Matt Cavlovic was painting in another room down the hall. Arney glad her church gave her an opportunity to spend the holiday doing something for the community.
“I thought it was a great idea,” she said. “It’s a new year, and I want to get out more.”