San Antonio Express-News
January 19, 2013
â€œI think service is really important. It bonds us together,â€ said Denn, a senior studying international relations at St. Mary’s University and one of about 350 participants Saturday in a local MLK Day of Service.
To prepare for Monday’s march on the East Side honoring the slain civil rights leader, volunteers painted posters, touched up murals, picked up trash, planted trees and planted landscaping along the 2.75-mile route.
The work was part of a DreamWeek San Antonio celebration from Jan. 11-22, and a National Day of Service declared by President Barack Obama on the weekend prior to his inauguration.
Along with more than 100 local members of City Year, an international, education-focused nonprofit that promotes leadership and service, the event drew about 250 volunteers.
Aside from sprucing up the area for the march, which is one of the largest events of its kind in the nation, Varghese said the annual day of labor also helps build relationships and neighborhood pride.
â€œWe do projects year-round, and some of them involve work that’s tedious. This is more fun.â€
Working with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, Green Spaces Alliance of South Texas and business sponsors, City Year tries to develop the next generation of leaders by giving young people a forum to focus their energy on the common good of the community, Varghese said.
More than 250,000 were expected to have gathered at similar service events nationwide, in what Obama has said hopefully will become an annual MLK tradition.
In Washington, a fair was held on the National Mall to raise awareness about service organizations, as volunteers worked to fill some 100,000 relief kits for deployed U.S. troops, veterans and emergency first responders.
Yviand Serbones, who helped repaint a mural that an anticipated 100,000-plus marchers will pass Monday, said she â€œwas living in a bubbleâ€ while growing up on the North Side.
Her 10 months of service nearly a decade ago with City Year, providing tutoring for children at an inner-city elementary school, â€œopened my eyes.â€
It was heartbreaking, Serbones said, to learn that some children rely on school lunch for â€œtheir main meal of the dayâ€ as their parents struggled financially, often working two jobs. When she was accepted to the University of Texas, she wore a Longhorns shirt to the school and told the children that they could go to college as well.
â€œIt really made me feel committed to San Antonio as a whole. I don’t want to be that close-minded again,â€ said Serbones, now 28 and working in public relations.
Denn said he’s hopeful Americans can work together after a contentious election year.
â€œWe’re not really going to get everything done unless we put all that aside,â€ Denn said. â€œWe need to come together.â€