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By Kailani Koenig-Muenster
1/19/09

Today is a special occasion for many here in Washington,
D.C. But for others, the Martin Luther King Day of Service lasts
year-round.

In the nation’s capital there were huge food and gift drives and small
gatherings to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. and encourage
volunteerism. At the Church of the Epiphany on G Street, a group of
people from the Youth Service Opportunities Project did what was
already familiar to them.

The YSOP encourages middle and high school students to make big
differences in people’s lives by getting involved in community
service. Although they prepare and serve meals to the homeless, they
made sure to tell us they’re no ordinary soup kitchen.

What makes this group unique is that after their guests attend the
buffet, they are able to sit with the volunteers and play card games,
do puzzles, or chat. The close-knit nature of the experience lends
itself to more than food and warmth. Unlike many soup kitchens where
people move briskly through a line and hardly talk with whoever is
serving them, these events strive to develop a true personal
connection between the volunteer and the guest.

Today’s MLK Day of Service did bring more volunteers including a
high-profile visit from Boston’s first lady Angela Menino and
Massachusetts Women for Obama. They readily pitched in by helping to
serve the guests. But this exact event isn’t unique to the
Inauguration. It happens about every week at the same location in
D.C.

Volunteers from YSOP wanted to emphasize that while the importance of
today’s community service should be cherished, the need lasts longer
than today.

Photo Credit: Kailani Koenig-Muenster, WEBN News.