Braving 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.