Martin Luther King Jr Day

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Every year the AmeriCorps members and their fearless leaders attend the MLK Day Luncheon with hundreds of others.  There is always a phenomenal speaker who inspires and encourages those in attendance.  Afterwards there is a freedom march that many participate in, although, AmeriCorps does not partake.  Instead, we do a service project, usually at the Midwest Food Bank, which is where we went this year.  Three years ago, there were some issues with who was going to come and speak, last minute they brought in Michael Eric Dyson.  Dyson is a Professor of Sociology at Georgetown and is referred to as “a Princeton PhD and a child of the streets who takes pains never to separate the two” by Michael A Fletcher.  The year following him was none other than Condoleezza Rice who spoke of what her father and grandfather had taught her about how if you put your mind to something you could do it.  Just like Dr. King.  This year, they brought back Michael Eric Dyson.  

He ignored controversy and spoke about what Dr. King would think of everything that is going on with the United States.  He spoke of unemployment, the treatment of the poor, the LGBT community, the young, and women.  He spoke of politics and everything that the conservatives and liberals disagree on and how what matters is taking care of people.  He spoke on the war on drugs, Trayvon Martin, and racial profiling.  He touched on how we are quick to judge people for numerous reasons.  He spoke of how those who sag their pants may be hiding a body that is ravaged by the community that they live in.  He spoke on the music of this generation and how the language offends people but that the situations and the lives these artists sing/rap about don’t bother them.  He quoted Biggie Smalls, Jay-Z, Trey Songz, Marvin Gay, Barry White and countless others, using lyrics to connect the audience.  It involved everyone and helped them understand the points he was making.  He spoke of how women make less than what men do when doing the same jobs, about how we “love our mamas and hate our baby mama’s”, and how we should respect and love everyone no matter their race, gender, religion, sexual preference, or anything else that someone uses to define themselves.

He even went as far as to call people out.  The mayor, the city council, and the pastors, who at one point were not perfect and how they therefore can not judge people.  He told Peoria that we are the belt buckle of the Bible belt and that Jesus would be afraid to come here because he does not meet our standards of what Christianity is.  It was a much needed reality check for many of those in attendance.  He was very clear that no one is perfect and that we have a very long way to go but he did so in an inspirational way that mixed comedy and music with what he was speaking about.

After the luncheon, ten people went to the Midwest Food Bank.  After a brief video and tour, explaining everything that went on there, we sorted canned goods, labeling and re-boxing them.  We formed an assembly line and got to work, doing 2,036 cans of spaghetti sauce in under an hour.  All in all, it was a very successful and productive day while also bringing all of our AmeriCorps members together on such an important day.  Remember, MLK Day is not a day off, it’s a day on.  

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Back to School, Back to School…

Many of our AmeriCorps members are currently students in college.  We have a few just beginning, a few half way done, and a few who are nearing the end.  Never the less, they’ve all gone back to the classroom, carrying books, listening to lectures, and doing homework.  Not only are they doing that, but they are beginning a new term here at AmeriCorps.  Soon enough the office will be back in full swing of things!  There will be members in and out of the office, up and down the stairs, and constantly on the phone setting up things for our team to do.  Lucky for all of you, that means it’s time for you to get involved with us.

We have many projects that are already looming closer and we’ll need plenty of help.  This Saturday there is a Special Olympics Bowling outing that always needs volunteers and there will be another one on October 12!  Also approaching very quickly is the United Way Day of Caring.  There are many things that you can do and you can look on line to see what your community is doing and how you can get involved.  Our AmeriCorps team will be at the Civic Center boxing up canned goods.  Which we will also be collecting until the 5th of September which is soon!  So if you are in the Peoria area, feel free to bring by canned goods to any of the Children’s Home locations!  In a couple of months, one of our biggest projects happens.  On October 19 we will all gather together in honor of the annual Keepsacks for Kids project and sort and make hundreds of blankets and hygiene kits to be sent out to all of the local shelters to help those in need.    The average age of a homeless person in Illinois is 9 years old!  Isn’t that heart breaking?  So when you’re all snuggled up in your warm bed in your home with a full stomach, think about those children who need your help and ask what you can do for them.  We would love donations of any kind, including fleece for blankets or any type of hygiene kits such as full size shampoo and body wash, tooth brushes, tooth paste, combs, brushes, tissues, etc etc.

The school season is the busiest time of the year but don’t forget that you can still help!

Our fearless leader Julie's son and a past member's nephew helping at Keepsacks for Kids!

Our fearless leader Julie’s son and a past member’s nephew helping at Keepsacks for Kids!