The spirit of Martin Luther King's legacy was alive and well on Jan 19 in Reading with a day of community service. The event drew more than 100 volunteers who hit the streets of Reading to make a difference.The event was organized by River Place in partnership with the Reading Area Firefighter's Museum, Family First Resource Center, and Kutztown University's student volunteer center.
"Our president has implored the people of America to do more community service, so that's exactly what we're going to do today," said Robert M. Behling, executive vice president of River Place.
Many gathered at First Baptist Church in Reading to hear Robert Jefferson, leader of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, deliver a rousing version of King's timeless "I Have a Dream" speech. Jefferson seemed to channel King's spirit during the uplifting speech, which led to a standing ovation from the crowd.
Rachel Stephenson, an international student at Kutztown University, immediately related to King's message upon hearing his speech for the very first time. Stephenson, from the Caribbean island of Dominica, said she has faced may challenges since coming to America, and King's words hit home.
"It was very inspiring," said Stephenson. "I was getting goose bumps," she said.
It wasn't long before inspired volunteers separated into groups and marched down South 5th street to reach out to the community. The first stop was the Liberty Fire Company, home of the Reading Area Firefighters Museum.
Museum curator Arlene Ratajczak was happy to have the extra help, and quickly found things for the volunteers to do. In no time people were sweeping, mopping and dusting the stairs. Furniture was moved, music records were cataloged and even the antique fire engine that sits in the lobby was given a once over by a few eager volunteers.
"They're doing such a great job," said Ratajczak. "We've never done anything like this before."
Meanwhile, a few blocks away at the Family First Resource Center, another team of volunteers came together to paint, replace broken floor tiles, organize files and tidy up the center.
Patsy Jefferson, executive director of the center, talked about Martin Luther King's message of community involvement and collective change.
"Every time I hear his speech I gain a new meaning," she said. "If you really listen to his words, it's not about me, it's not about you, it's about us."
The value of King's message was not lost on those who came together in the spirit of community service, which proves that after 46 years since his prophetic words were spoken, the dream is now one step closer to reality.