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By Helen Silvis of The Skanner News
Published: 28 November 2011

 Inspired, uplifted and committed to making a difference in our communities: That's how millions of Americans feel when they think about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Now, all of us have another opportunity to make Dr. King's message ring out loud across Portland, by volunteering, Jan. 13-16 over the King holiday weekend.

"What was Martin Luther King's life about? It was a life of service," says Jay Bloom, interim director of United Way of the Columbia Willamette, "I think if he was with us today, he'd be calling on us to give our service."

Since it began 26 years ago, the Skanner Foundation's Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast has honored those who give voluntary service to others. This year the foundation is supporting United Way's 5th annual Martin Luther King weekend of service.

 "Let's show we heard Dr. King's message by making this the biggest volunteer weekend ever," said Bernie Foster, publisher of The Skanner News.

Whatever your interests and skills, with more than 50 projects on offer around the Metro-region, United Way has a project for you. You can volunteer for as little as two hours or for all four days if you like. You can be outdoors or indoors. You can even bring along the family.

Cultivate East Side Pride by helping the Rosewood Initiative get a new café and community center up and running. Help feed hungry families by stocking the pantry at Oregon Food Bank. Or get down and dirty with Hacienda's Salon Comunal, who are cleaning up the Cully neighborhood.

Bloom says there is no better way to honor the slain civil rights leader than to make his holiday 'A Day on Not a Day Off.'

"It's like that old saying, 'I complained I had no shoes until I met a man who had no foot,'" he says. "Each of us have blessings and we can all help our neighbors."

Joining up with the fantastic volunteering nonprofit HandsOn Portland, United Way has created opportunities across the Portland- metro region in Clark, Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties.

Find the project you want to work on and sign up online at the United Way website. Or call Andréa at HandsOn Portland: 503.200.3366

A bonus: if you bring a team of four people or more, you can enter a drawing for a Kindle Fire.

Ala Salem helped spruce up an elementary school playground. He says giving back makes him feel good.

Dr. King clearly told us how much community service matters when he said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?"

And during his life, he practiced what he preached, working tirelessly for the benefit of others, as well as to advance the civil rights movement.

United Way is practicing what it preaches too, by asking its employees to volunteer on Jan. 16, and giving them a floating holiday to take later in the year. So if you run a corporation, a nonprofit or a business, you can do likewise and become a partner in that effort.

In 2011 more than 2,000 volunteers contributed 8,000 hours of work, worth about $166,800.

Ala Salem was one of those folks, working with a team to spruce up Mt. Pleasant Elementary School in Oregon City.

"It was a lot of fun," he said. "We raked leaves, cleared up play areas and painted an outdoor area. Some students from Lewis and Clark came along and they were able to create a mural for the kids. Hopefully we'll be able to repeat that process this year."

Salem says volunteering just feels good. "It doesn't have to be all day; it just takes a couple of hours to make a difference," he says. "You meet new people, get to know more about what's going on in your community, and you can offer something back."

Anna Mortsfield, who works at Wells Fargo Bank, has plenty of volunteer experience. She volunteers for SOLV, for the KGW Toy drive, Feed the Children and others throughout the year. But this will be her first year volunteering with the weekend of service.

"I just love it," she says. "I'm excited. It's wonderful to have the Martin Luther King weekend of service become a new tradition. It's nice to have a big event that brings so many people out to volunteer.  It's a very important holiday."


Check out projects and sign up online at United Way of the Columbia Willamette's Martin Luther King Weekend of Service

Or call Andrea at HandsOn Portland: 503.200.3366

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