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Dear Decaturish – MLK Service Project: Addressing the Past, Building a Better Future

Decatur Editor's Pick

Dear Decaturish – MLK Service Project: Addressing the Past, Building a Better Future

Ashley Lytle seals roof shingles during the Decatur Martin Luther King Jr. Service Project weekend on Sunday, January 18, 2015. Photo by Jonathan Phillips

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Dear Decaturish,

As the MLK Holiday Weekend approaches, I am compelled to share my heartfelt experience with the MLK Service Project, an initiative that resonates deeply with the values of community, compassion, and social justice.

Year after year, hundreds of dedicated volunteers converge upon the homes of Decatur’s senior citizens during the MLK Holiday Weekend. The purpose is clear – to make crucial repairs that empower our senior residents to continue living independently for yet another year. The impact of this endeavor is profound, extending beyond immediate fixes to fostering an environment where our elders can thrive with dignity.

Having actively participated in the MLK Service Project for several years, I’ve come to appreciate its significance on a broader scale. The roots of this project delve into the historical context of our town, acknowledging the pervasive practice of redlining that once gripped Decatur and much of the South. As the tide shifted with the cessation of redlining and the onset of White Flight, certain areas in Decatur became accessible for black residents to purchase homes, laying the foundation for generational wealth.

In today’s bustling housing market, these once-affordable neighborhoods have transformed into high-demand areas, offering a significant return on investment for those who have resided there the longest. Yet, behind the scenes, the MLK Service Project serves as a powerful force in preserving the well-being of our senior community members and, perhaps unexpectedly, challenging the discriminatory policies of the past.

For me, this initiative holds personal significance. My late father, a fervent advocate for the MLK Service Project, instilled in me the importance of community service. Following his passing, I chose to honor his memory by actively engaging in the project. Through this involvement, I’ve discovered that my contributions extend beyond the immediate repairs – I am actively participating in the ongoing effort to rectify the legacy of racist policies that once plagued our town.

By volunteering with the MLK Service Project, I am not only enhancing the quality of life for our oldest residents but also contributing to a broader narrative of justice and equity. Together, we are forging a path towards a more inclusive and compassionate community that actively confronts the injustices of the past.

In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., let us continue this vital work, transforming our actions into a beacon of hope and progress for all.

Will you join me? More information about volunteering and donating is available at mlkserviceproject.com


Beth Thompson

MLK Service Project Treasurer and Volunteer Coordinator

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