This post was written by Joe Young, Teens Services Librarian at the Poulsbo location of Kitsap Regional Library.
Last Monday, January 16th, was Martin Luther King Day. Kitsap Regional Library, along with many other businesses and organizations, was closed in recognition of the national holiday, in remembrance of Dr. King's life and legacy, and to encourage individuals to engage with their community through citizen action and volunteer service. In 2016 long simmering tensions over race and identity in the United States boiled over, culminating in a highly contentious Presidential election, the results of which left many Americans reeling. In light of the current social and political climate, it is the perfect time to reflect upon the meaning of Martin Luther King Day, and consider how we might act as individuals to affect positive change in our community.
Although a federal holiday recognizing Dr. King was signed into law in the 1980's, it wasn't until relatively recently that the holiday was universally recognized at the state level. South Carolina was the last state to recognize the day as a paid holiday for all state employees, with governor Jim Hodges signing a bill on May 2, 2000 to make King's birthday an official state holiday. The tradition of dedicating Martin Luther King Day to community service came about in the 1990's, with President Bill Clinton signing into law the King Holiday and Service Act (co-authored by Congressman John Lewis and Senator Harris Wofford) in 1994. Since 1996 Todd Bernstein, Wofford's former office director, has been organizing the annual Greater Philadelphia King Day of Service, the largest of many state and city-led annual events honoring King through community service.
Although this year's Martin Luther King Day has passed, the need for volunteer service in Kitsap County remains high; if you are seized by the desire to make a positive impact in your community through service, here are three suggestions of where to get started. The Kitsap County Volunteer Program offers a wide variety of volunteer opportunities to beautify and improve your community - you can help clean up our county's parks, gardens, and roads, or volunteer your time mentoring youth in the Juvenile Detention Facility. Unfortunately, homelessness is a growing problem for our youth - on average nearly 400 children aged 0-17 experience homelessness each month in Kitsap county ("Homelessness in Kitsap County FactSheet." Web. 17 Jan. 2017.) . You can help homeless youth in our community by volunteering at The Coffee Oasis, our very own local coffee house and homeless youth resource center, with locations in Bremerton, Port Orchard, and Poulsbo. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention the wealth of volunteer opportunities at the library. If you are inspired to improve your community through library service, please feel free to contact us for a variety of volunteer opportunities ranging from tutoring students to providing library support in one of our branches to helping with system-wide projects and events.
Whatever our political affiliation or opinion regarding the recent election, one thing we can all agree on is that positive change in our community starts on an individual level. There's no better time than right now to take action to affect positive change in your backyard - go out there and make a difference!