Everybody Can Be Great, Because Everybody Can Serve!

These are the words that were conveyed to over 250 volunteers during the United Way and Hands On Central Texas MLK Day of Service celebration on January 19, 2008.

The celebration started with a kick-off event at Huston-Tillotson University that reflected on Reverend Martin Luther King’s dream toward racial equality, economic justice and his commitment for nonviolence.

Reverend Joseph Parker of David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church delivered the keynote address sharing his personal memories, as a young man in Birmingham, Alabama, of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Others speakers included Yvonne Ortiz-Prince, Dean of Student Affairs, Huston-Tillotson University, State Representative Dawnna Dukes and David Balch, President United Way Capital Area.

The program also featured performances by the Huston-Tillotson University Choir, The Cipher Austin’s Hip-Hop Project, DJ Statik and an interactive activity led by the Theatre Action Project.

Immediately following the celebration volunteers honored Dr. King’s legacy of service by beautifying the MLK Jr. Blvd, picking up litter and cleaning up, sanitized and cleaned-up the children’s playroom areas at SafePlace, sprucing up and painting a room in an East Austin Church, working on the winter garden at Oak Springs Garden and other similar volunteer projects throughout Austin.

Additionally, a large group of volunteers from diverse walks of life came together to work on “Peace Benches” reflecting on the lessons of Dr. King as they choose a quote for imprint on the bench, a messages of peace or inspiring words.

A total of nineteen “Peace Benches” were built on Saturday. This is the first of the “Peace Bench” project eventually Hands On Central Texas through its service days will build 100 benches to foster community service and action in East Austin. The benches will be distributed to recreation centers, community/neighborhood centers and nonprofit organizations to promote social interaction and build a stronger sense of community.

Thank you to the City of Austin, Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Office, who help support and sponsor the “Peace Bench” project.

Solomon Perry (center), a professional illusionist artist, volunteered his time and talent to share his vision and inspiration on an MLK Peace Bench as a gift to our keynote speaker, Reverend Joseph Parker. Eddie Garcia (left) and Tom Well (right) oversaw the Peace Bench Project.

And, thank you to all of the wonderful volunteers who came out and honored Dr. King’s legacy on Saturday by volunteering! What better way to spend a cold Saturday in January than by making new friends while working on projects that benefit the larger community. Your volunteer service makes a real difference to everyone in the Austin community.

Please send us your comments and volunteer experience during United Way and Hands On Central Texas MLK Day of Service. For more information regarding the “Peace Bench” project please contact Armando Rayo, Director Hands On Central Texas at 225-0360, or volunteering opportunities go to

Click here to check out more pictures from the MLK Day of Service.

Diana Santos
Corporate and Volunteer Relations Director
Hands On Central Texas

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