With the support of American Express and Southwest Airlines, SCA brought together hundreds of community members across the country to honor the MLK National Day of Service — catching the attention of Time Out New York and Fox 5 News. In New York City, Seattle, and Washington DC, almost 800 SCA ConSERVE volunteers mobilized to recognize MLK Day as a #DayOnNotDayOff and connect the ideals of social and environmental justice.
SCA kicked off the MLK Day weekend by bringing out almost 250 volunteers in New York City to transform St. Nicholas Park in Harlem — site of the historic home of Alexander Hamilton. After two weeks of Code Blue temperatures in New York, the sun finally came out for the day of service. Volunteers took to the trails to clear out cobblestone culverts — long clogged with leaves and sediment — to improve drainage on the trails, reduce erosion, and improve stormwater management.
Elsewhere around the park, participants spread wood chips around newly planted seedlings to help protect them for the winter, pulled thickets of invasive mugwort that had encroached on trails, and raked up 250 bags of leaves and litter to clean up park playgrounds and ball courts.
NYC Parks Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh brought his granddaughter out to work side-by-side with volunteers — and thanked them for making MLK Day a day on, not a day off. “Martin Luther King, Jr. said that anyone can be great because anyone can serve,” the Commissioner said, “and I see a lot of truly great young people out here serving today!”
Meanwhile, on the West Coast, youth members of SCA’s Conservation Leadership Corps rallied MLK Day volunteers at Maple Wood Playfield in Seattle. Participants spread over 3,000 square feet of mulch to help protect 400 newly-planted seedlings at the park. “As we gear up to launch our spring crews, this was the perfect time to come out and serve!” said Michael Helms, SCA Program Assistant in Seattle.
SCA closed out MLK Day weekend by bringing out more than 500 volunteers for a massive cleanup of the Anacostia River in DC, helping the National Park Service kick off 2018 as the Year of the Anacostia to celebrate DC’s iconic river.
Following a welcome by SCA President and CEO Jaime Matyas, Superintendent of National Capital Parks-East Tara Morrison, and Deputy Chief of External Affairs for the Corporation for National and Community Service Marc Young, hundreds of volunteers set off to gather trash from the riverfront. Other groups hit the trails to cut back invasive species encroaching on the park’s extensive bike paths — “Lots of immediate gratification!” said local volunteer Stuart Hudson, as he carried out armloads of vines.
Volunteers deployed along almost three miles of waterfront, pulling out large items like tires and netting along with microtrash such as cigarette butts and plastic micro-beads. In total, the group diverted over four tons of trash from continuing on to impact Chesapeake Bay and the 176 square miles of the Anacostia Watershed.
In the face of such a big job, SCA leaders saw reason for optimism. ”I’ve served with SCA for several years now for MLK Day at Anacostia Park,” said SCA leader Celeste Stout. “One thing I noticed this year was that there was significantly less styrofoam than usual. Policies are changing, and people’s attitudes are changing too. It feels good to know that our efforts are truly making a difference!”
Special thanks to AMERICAN EXPRESS and SOUTHWEST AIRLINES for sponsoring SCA’s MLK Day events, and to National Capital Parks-East in DC and NYC Parks in New York for hosting this year’s projects. Thanks also to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and all the community groups who joined the day including The Mission Continues, Penny Appeal USA, the Girl Scouts, and the Maryland Conservation Corps.