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MLK Day of Service

By Alejandra Lopez-Cuellar  

Today is the Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Day of Service, a national service day that aims to strengthen and bridge communities, and help people move closer to Dr. King's vision of a beloved community. In observance of the day, people from all across the country are engaging in volunteer activities on what many describe as, "a day on, not off". 

Many of the people that volunteer on or during one of the days leading up to the MLK Day of Service come from AmeriCorps programs, such as the New York Immigration Coalition's (NYIC) VISTA program. The NYIC VISTA program engages people in year-long service positions - referred to as NYIC VISTA positions - that are hosted by NYIC nonprofit Member organizations in New York State. NYIC VISTAs work on projects like fundraising and volunteer management, which build capacity for their host site's immigrant-focused anti-poverty programs (e.g., legal services, ESL classes).

As the NYIC VISTA program's VISTA Leader, my role is to provide support and guidance to the VISTAs in the program and to make sure that they engage in national service days like MLK. This year, I engaged most of the program's VISTAs in fulfilling their MLK service by volunteering at the NYIC's recent Key to the City (KTTC) event in Corona, Queens, NY. 

KTTC is a multi-day mass-assistance event that connects immigrants to critical identification document services; free legal screenings and consultations; and information and other resources. Key supporters and partners include Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the New York City Council, the Consulado General de México en Nueva York, the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), and many more. During the past week, we had 10 VISTAs volunteer at the event and provide support around logistics, interpretation, pre-screenings, photography and social media.   

NYIC VISTAs, in addition to AmeriCorps members from Civic Corps and Public Allies, at the NYIC's Key to the City event. 

It was great to have the VISTAs fulfill their MLK service at an event that the NYIC runs, as it allowed them to see some of the amazing work that the NYIC does in the community. It was also wonderful for them to be able to reconnect and hang out with each other in-person, which our VISTAs don't regularly do since the program is spread out over New York State. 

While the majority of our VISTAs served at KTTC, we did have a few VISTAs engage in other activities for MLK Day of Service in places such as Rochester and Long Island. These activities included volunteering at a soup kitchen and a day care center. 

This past week helped remind me of MLK's legacy of community service, and commitment to advancing racial and economic justice and opportunity for all. I believe that when we come together to serve the greater good, we remind ourselves of what it means to serve others. I am hopeful that everyone who volunteered for MLK Day walked away with a better understanding of what we can collectively do to continue to support our families, friends and communities. 

As this day comes to a close, I find myself returning repeatedly to a MLK quote that I hope will resonate with everyone throughout the year:

Life's most persistant and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?' 


If your organization is interested in hosting an NYIC VISTA, please visit www.nyic.org/vistahostapplication. 2018 - 2019 Host Site Applications are due by January 31, 2018. If you are interested in becoming an NYIC Volunteer and supporting events like Key to the City, please visit www.nyic.org/volunteer 


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