martin-luther-king,-jr.-day:-a-lesson-in-service-at-the-oc-food-bank

Source: OC Register
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: A lesson in service at the OC Food Bank Mindy Schauer %%item_date%% %%item_source%%
For Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 16, some 700 volunteers assembled in the cavernous OC Food Bank in Garden Grove for the organization’s 24th annual Day of Service event, boxing up staples for elderly people in need.

Director Mark Lowry, who has been with the food bank for 36 years, remembered when the MLK Day program started 24 years ago – how he wanted to reach out to students and offer them an alternative to “staying home and playing video games” on their day off.

  • Kelly Priestly, 7, volunteers at the OC Food Bank in...

    Kelly Priestly, 7, volunteers at the OC Food Bank in Garden Grove with her family during MLK Day on Monday, January 16, 2023. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Pallets of food tower at the OC Food Bank in...

    Pallets of food tower at the OC Food Bank in Garden Grove where 700 MLK Day volunteers assemble about 10,000 monthly food boxes for seniors in need on Monday, January 16, 2023. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Ashley Ranae Williams, 8, can’t stop herself from being a...

    Ashley Ranae Williams, 8, can’t stop herself from being a kid, as she assembles monthly food boxes for seniors during MLK Day. She was with her family at the OC Food Bank on Monday, January 16, 2023. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • About 700 MLK Day volunteers help assemble about 10,000 monthly...

    About 700 MLK Day volunteers help assemble about 10,000 monthly food boxes for seniors in need at the OC Food Bank in Garden Grove on Monday, January 16, 2023. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Zaya Cruz, 5, left, and Kelly Priestly, 7, read a...

    Zaya Cruz, 5, left, and Kelly Priestly, 7, read a book about kittens after volunteering at the OC Food Bank on MLK Day in Garden Grove on Monday, January 16, 2023. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • U.S. Representative Katie Porter, D-Irvine, applauds MLK Day volunteers after...

    U.S. Representative Katie Porter, D-Irvine, applauds MLK Day volunteers after the first shift at the OC Food Bank in Garden Grove on Monday, January 16, 2023. Porter also volunteered there, sealing boxes of food for seniors. “Coming out to this event teaches you about others and the community,” she said. ”It helps unite us.” (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Mark Lowry, director of the OC Food Bank, right, greets...

    Mark Lowry, director of the OC Food Bank, right, greets State Sen. Josh Newman who showed up at the Garden Grove warehouse during MLK Day on Monday, January 16, 2023. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • MLK Day of Service volunteers help assemble monthly food boxes...

    MLK Day of Service volunteers help assemble monthly food boxes for seniors in need at the OC Food Bank in Garden Grove on Monday, January 16, 2023. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Costa Mesa elementary students wait for join the second shift...

    Costa Mesa elementary students wait for join the second shift of OC Food Bank volunteers during MLK Day in Garden Grove on Monday, January 16, 2023. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Cub Scout, Curtis Mason Williams, 5, helps assemble monthly food...

    Cub Scout, Curtis Mason Williams, 5, helps assemble monthly food boxes for seniors at the OC Food Bank in Garden Grove during MLK Day on Monday, January 16, 2023. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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He visited a high school in Santa Ana to explain community service and King’s legacy, he remembered, asking if any of the students knew who Martin Luther King was.

One student thought King was the person who “started that religion” in the 1500s, he said. Wrong. That was the Protestant Reformation leader, Martin Luther. Another student thought King “freed the slaves.” Wrong again.

So Lowry said he likes to use the holiday as a teachable moment with kids, for whom the the Civil Rights Movement is largely past history.

“Young people hear the story about Dr. King’s life, followed by participating in a community service action,” Lowry said. “We know that learners remember a percent of what they read, a larger percent of what they hear, and a larger percent of what they do.”

Monday’s lesson wasn’t lost on 15-year-old Boy Scout and Friendship Baptist Church member Kevin Asbell, Jr., who was assembling boxes with cereal, fruit, vegetables, beans, juice and other staples.

He described King as a man who “fought to end oppression.”

“I know there’s still oppression and people out there who still hate, but I have been lucky enough to not have experienced it,” said Asbell, who is Black. He added, “I hope the people who receive this food have joy and get uplifted.”

UC Irvine student Thu Nguyen, 23, seemed less hopeful.

If King were alive today, “he would weep at the state of the world,” she said, pointing to continuing news reports about violence. Nguyen, a United States citizen born in Vietnam, said she experienced racial discrimination during the pandemic.

Curtis and Eureka Williams were volunteering with their children, Curtis Jr., 5, and Ashley, 8, who described King as, “a famous person who gave the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.”

Eureka Williams works as product manager for Kaiser Permanente and was given the day off by her company, she said. “We need to move forward and have equity, in all areas of life, including mental health, and financial health.”

Lowry said in the 24 years the food bank has hosted volunteers on MLK Day, about 10,000 people have packed boxes for 155,000 people in need. He had worried the rain would keep volunteers away on Monday; instead they showed up in force.

Together the volunteers, including UC Irvine students, members of the 100 Black Men of Orange County group, school kids and a few politicians, on Monday assembled about 10,000 boxes of food for community members who are sometimes overlooked.

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