MLK Day in the Nation’s Capital
WASHINGTON — They could have just taken the day off, or gone to a movie, or stayed inside the warmth of their homes and away from the near freezing temperatures.
Instead, over 400 volunteers bundled in coats, gloves and scarves, ventured outside to part of the day laboring outside in Anacostia Park to make a place better for others as their day of service Martin Luther King Day.
In roughly 35-degree weather, they pulled up invasive plants, gathered up trash and debris in heavy-duty garbage bags and planted trees as part of an effort to maintain the health of the 1200-acre park.
Johnie Jones 29, said he believed this event allowed all of the volunteers to honor King’s legacy by doing for others.
“As a communal area, this a place where everybody gets to participate, partake in and benefit from,” Jones said. “All my family members — my parents, my grandparents — were public servants. Community service and community involvement [have been] running through my blood.”
The effort was coordinated by the Student Conservation Association, National Capital Parks East and AmeriCorps, who partnered in the remembrance of Dr. King.
Families, couples and worked thefour-hour day of revamping a park that’s considered home to many.
“Anacostia Park is not only special to SCA, but a lot people in this community,” said Monique Daily, an event manager who said she visited the park as a child.
“It has work that needs to get done,” Daily said. “There are a lot of issues with trash. We wanted to give back to a park that’s really meant a lot to us and the community.”
Volunteers were met with some surprises, including wild deer..
“It definitely caught me off guard,” Xavier Mitchell, 22, said, “but I wasn’t freaked out enough to stop doing what I came here for. I was just glad it wasn’t a bear or anything.”
Hours of work were put in by volunteers as young as the age of five, and the effort was apparent by 1:00 when the event was over and the park was left improved.
With loads of garbage placed in the back of pickup trucks, planted trees in place and hazardous plants cut down to the satisfaction of all, the volunteers called it a day.
“This was about his legacy,” Jones said. “It’s about doing the most good for the most people. We just wanted to be a part of that and continue that legacy.”