Volunteers unite on Martin Luther King Day

The holiday honoring the birthday of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has turned into a day of service for many.
January 20, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
The federal holiday honoring the birthday of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has turned into a day of service for many. ABC7 News caught up with some volunteers making a difference here in the Bay Area.

A community in West Oakland came together to plant trees. Urban Releaf organized dozens of volunteers and 40 trees were planted to beautify the neighborhood. For Deaunte Jackson it was a way to reclaim these streets.

"It means a lot to me to know that I am making a difference in some sort of way, not just sitting at home playing video games or out there smoking weed," said Jackson.

On Monday, Kaiser Permanente employees and volunteers from Hands On the Bay, came to the old navy yard in Alameda to help paint, clean and do some gardening. They're preparing these units for about 50 veterans.

A non-profit called Operation Dignity refurbishes apartments for homeless vets. They can stay there for up to two years. Transitional housing for veterans is much needed around the Bay Area.

"They would be on the street again, they'd be living in their cars, they'd be couch hopping from relative to relative, friends to friends, sleeping in the parks," said David Garcia Rivera from Operation Dignity.

"My hope is that they come and be able to establish themselves in a community and feel the attention and love that many of these volunteers put in to having their new home," said Edgar Quiroz, a volunteer.

Dr. Ronald Copeland is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. He was one of the Kaiser physicians volunteering on Monday.

"Perhaps the greatest benefit from it was the reminder and the awareness of the fact that these situations are going on all the time and hopefully an inspiration to do something about it, not just in a symbolic way, on this holiday," said Copeland.

It was Congress in 1994 which designated Martin Luther King Jr. Day a day of service. It is the only federal holiday dedicated to giving something back to the community.

Freedom Train and local events

A flurry of last-minute ticket buying saved a Bay Area Martin Luther King Jr. Day tradition from disappearing. For 30 years the Freedom Train has carried passengers from San Jose to San Francisco to commemorate the great march on Washington, but organizers said this year would be the last due to lack of interest. Just 300 of the 1,600 available tickets had been sold as of last Thursday. News of ending the freedom Train did spark interest. Organizers say they will bring it back next year.

The Freedom Train riders joined up with other groups for a march through the streets of San Francisco. Over 1,000 people walked from the Caltrain station to the Moscone Center area. Many said they took part to keep the civil rights struggle alive. The march culminated with an MLK celebration at Yerba Buena Gardens. Speakers read from King's famous speeches and honored his fight for equality.

"The legacy that he left us is to have the courage to fight for what he stood for. Because while we have achieved some victories, we have to always keep fighting them," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California.

Pelosi also took part in a morning MLK event that included San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. Both said the new struggle is to raise the minimum wage and defend the voting rights act.


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