Members of the Bulldog nation braved the cold weather to join others in the Athens community Jan. 17 to honor the memory of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. with more than 30 service projects across the county.
The ninth annual Athens MLK Day of Service partnered with 155 agencies to sponsor 30 projects across town. More than 1,000 volunteers registered to plant trees, organize donated goods and landscape public spaces.
“It’s one of our biggest volunteer days,” said Julie Meehan, executive director of Community Connection, which coordinates Day of Service projects. “Dr. King was about service and this gives people a way to honor his legacy.”
For Linda Davis, site coordinator at Brooklyn Cemetery on Alps Road, where volunteers removed fallen limbs from walkways and cleared invasive weeds from grave markers, the day of service also carried a personal note.
“There are 1,100 graves that we know of, but we’re always finding more,” she said. “Someday we’ll find my grandparents-they’re in there somewhere. I remember seeing their graves as a child, so I know they’re there. We just haven’t found them yet.”
Brooklyn Cemetery, established in 1882, was primarily used to bury members of African-American churches, Davis said. Although more than 1,100 graves have been uncovered, most without headstones, countless others remain hidden by vegetation.
For some groups, such as the Georgia Students for Public Administration, working at the cemetery provided a way to continue King’s legacy by engaging with a little-remembered piece of community history.
“We wanted to do something honoring Martin Luther King’s work through service, and we felt this project spoke to that,” said Vernon Cathcart, a graduate student in the School of Public and International Affairs.
“It’s amazing that all these people showed up to work today on such a cold morning. They could have stayed inside, sleeping in or watching TV, but they wanted to help,” said Christine Henderson, GSPA president. “Our project ended early and instead of going home, everyone went to the site next door and helped out for another hour.”