Florida State Senator Darryl Rouson, District 19 Democrat, was the keynote speaker who delivered a passionate message at the 4th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service in Gulfport on Saturday, January 13. “By your presence here today, you are indicating that you are servants of the public. You are indicating unity. That we can work together.”
raving chilly temperatures and wind, dozens of participants came out for the fourth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service in Gulfport on Saturday, January 13 from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
They joined a nation of volunteers for this annual event exemplifying King’s challenge to serve others, said Margarete Tober, president of the Gulfport Neighbors, a non-profit that helped to sponsor the event along with the city and various community and service organizations.
“This Day of Service is a way to celebrate what people do all year long and that’s helping others,” said Tober.
Service projects for 2018 included a cleanup of the Tangerine Greenway, a Gulfport beach cleanup, wooden bench painting along Beach Boulevard, planting bed maintenance in the Gulfport Food Forest, providing assistance at the Pinellas County Animal Services compound and creating welcome baskets for families at the Community Action Stops Abuse facility.
Opening ceremonies and the free lunch, sponsored by the Community Emergency Response Team, were held in a field next to the baseball diamond at Tomlinson Park located at the corner of 19th Avenue South and 54th Street South.
Florida State Senator Darryl Rouson, D-District 19, was the keynote speaker who delivered a passionate message.
“Dr. King stood for unity. How long must intolerance continue? He answered, ‘Not long,’” said Rouson. “Yet, today, we still live with examples of racism, of division and work is yet to be done. By your presence here today, you are indicating that you are servants of the public. You are indicating unity. That we can work together. And, that’s what the Day of Service is all about. Americans giving back to our country what our country has given to us. Freedom. Opportunity.”
Jerard Williams of St. Petersburg sang the National Anthem and served as an inspiration for participants. Williams made the top 200 in The Voice, NBC’s national television series where vocalists compete for recording contracts, said Gulfport Councilperson Yolanda Roman, the event’s emcee.
Being the anthem singer is a role of leadership, said Williams.
“The meaning of today is not just about cleaning our community but also cleaning ourselves and allowing us to be able to have that connection as we cleanse each other,” said Williams.
The fourth annual Martin Luther King Day of Service in Gulfport was held on Saturday, January 13 from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Tomlinson Park. Councilperson Yolanda Roman, left, served as the emcee for the opening ceremonies.
Jerard Williams of St. Petersburg sang the National Anthem and served as an inspiration for participants. “The meaning of today is not just about cleaning our community but also cleaning ourselves and allowing us to be able to have that connection as we cleanse each other,” said Williams.
Cigarette butts were the most common trash item found during the beach cleanup on Saturday, January 13, said Cymoril White, left. Stetson University College of Law students pictured from left: White, second year; Raymond James, first year; and, Justin Bell, first year. “Stetson is really big on doing pro bono hours and we need 60 total to graduate,” said White. “Giving back to Gulfport is something we really want to do. We are all part of the Black Law Student Association so we’re doing this volunteering for the Day of Service and we’ll also march” in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in St. Petersburg on Monday, January 15.
Prem Persaud, of St. Petersburg, serves as a board member for the Gulfport Merchants Association and he owns the Tampa Bay Beach Bums, a business that holds regular volleyball tournaments at Gulfport beach and that contributes to local charities. Painting benches is “making Gulfport brighter, literally,” he said.
Many helped mulch the planting beds of the Gulfport Food Forest project in Clymer Park along Beach Boulevard. Four pictured from left are Anna DeMeo of Gulfport; Doug Porter a Gulfport seasonal resident from Albany, New York; Crea Egan, founder of the project; Carlos, a diabetic alert dog; and, his owner Veronica Figols of Gulfport. “Since the project was originally formed as a gesture of peace, it feels like in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King that people are coming together to learn how to share. It’s grounds for potentially peace on Earth if we can learn to cooperate and get things done. It’s hopeful relief for me.”
Adding a new coat of colorful paint to wooden benches owned by the city of Gulfport and located along Beach Boulevard was the idea of Terry Foster, left, of Gulfport who is a board member of the Gulfport Merchants Association. “We’re trying to stagger the colors and they are pulled from the Gay rainbow flag,” she said. Also pictured is Paul Ray, councilmember-elect for Ward 3. “I’m a terrible painter so I’m just taping. This event is great for the whole community to come together and do some work.”