Day of Service Kicks-Off Historic Week

Today was the start of a historic week across the nation, the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in Houston, and the Inauguration of our nation's first black president tomorrow. Volunteers today gave back to the community in honor of Dr. King's accomplishments in a day of service. From the KUHF News Lab, Melissa Galvez reports.

"Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior."

The kids in this classroom are eager to hear the story, reaching across the table for a better look at the pictures.  They got a day off of school for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, but it's really a day ON, a day to actively learn about peace, justice, and brotherly love.

"Love.  He said to love one another, not to hate each other."

Their teachers are volunteers from the Shell Corporation as well as the non-profits Neighborhood Centers Inc. and Hope Worldwide.  For the past several years, Shell has honored Dr. Martin Luther King's legacy with a day of service in Houston. 

This year, however, the incoming Obama administration created USA Service-dot-org to coordinate and promote thousands of service opportunities across the country.  They hope that Dr. King's great acts will inspire all Americans to help out in the community.

"I love working with kids, I have two of my own."

That's Monique Sedeh, a Shell employee who is volunteering at the Ripley House for Martin Luther King J. Day.  She's helping the older kids make banners, draw self-portraits, and share their dreams for the future.  Sedeh made sure to teach her own children what this day means.

"My son is five. He was asking, 'what does today mean?' I told him, 'without today, there wouldn't be tomorrow." Meaning without Martin Luther King and the strives that he made in history, which was to make sure there was no more division among the races anymore, to bring us all together.  With that,  we have Obama's Inauguration today.  So today was a very monumental day."

Outside, there's a small crowd diligently digging holes in the dirt. These volunteers are planting 22 new pecan and cypress trees in the East End neighborhood as a part of the City of Houston's Million Trees Plus Program.

"Ammad, how long do you think it took?"

 " Uh…about 9 minutes, I think. "

For a lot of the kids here, it may be hard to appreciate the long struggle that's gone into this year's MLK Day and presidential inauguration.  But this year, even the adults seem enlivened with a special hope for the future-a hope for change

Here's volunteer Keisha Peters:

"I see a change already, I see a long of people coming together, it's not about black, Hispanic, or white, it's about people being people, and I see a difference myself, I do, I do."

From the KUHF News Lab, I'm Melissa Galvez.