This year, VISTA members of C3 Twin Cities joined over 35,000 people in national service to honor the legacy of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

King’s legacy is one of service to humanity and the nonviolent fight for justice and freedom from oppression.  King spoke of service on many occasions, saying:

“If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness…by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace,) a soul generated by love” and “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others? “’

In 1994,  U.S president Bill Clinton signed into law that MLK Day would be a national day of service. It is the only national holiday devoted to national service, carrying the slogan “MLK Day is a day on, not a day off.”

So, for our day on, we chose to volunteer at the Arc Value Village Thrift Store and Donation Center in New Hope, MN. Arc Value Village is a social enterprise that generates a business profit, supports The Arc’s mission for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, and acts as a steward of the environment. Our team was hard at work sorting through donations and organizing the store floor in preparation for the MLK Day Sale. It’s pretty amazing what a relatively small group of us was able to accomplish—here are some numbers:

  1. 2048 pounds of goods processed. This corresponds with $2048 of generated revenue.
  2. Advocacy on behalf of folks with intellectual and developmental disabilities (and their families) is central to ensuring protection of human rights and meaningful inclusion. On average it costs $70 per hour to conduct advocacy work—so the $2048 from our processed donations will translate to 30 families benefiting from advocacy activity.
  3. A survey conducted by Arc Value Village found that a big motivator for not choosing to shop at a thrift store is the overwhelming feeling of having to sift through cluttered, unorganized racks. By organizing the store, we relieved shoppers of the anxiety of sorting and made their shopping experiences care free and easy.

While coming together on MLK Day as VISTA members (Volunteers in Service to America) can feel redundant– I mean, after all, we do technically volunteer every day for 12 months during our term of service—there is, admittedly something special about coming together on a joint tasks to ultimately see- progress and completion of a project with a quantifiable impact.

Beyond the sheer act of volunteering, as a program that also explicitly centers social justice as a core value, coming together in the name of an activist who organized millions nationally and internationally to believe in and fight for a better version of our country is pretty meaningful.

There are many lessons I feel we have yet to learn from what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for and even died for. My hope is that we will continue to serve, learn, stand up and live out that dream into reality.

In service,

Sarah and Coco

Sarah Reiter

Author Sarah Reiter

More posts by Sarah Reiter