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A day on, not off

Palmyra residents and local organizations came together on Presidents’ Day for the rescheduled day of service at the community center

Amir Abdurahman, Erica Campbell and their son Sundiata hard at work cleaning windows in the Palmyra Community Center during the MLK Day of Service. The family came representing local Cub Scout Pack 9.

Stephen Finn

The Sun

Legislation signed in 1983 established the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a federal holiday, and in 1994 Congress designated this new holiday a national day of service. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, each year, the third Monday in January is recognized as a “day on, not off.”

“MLK Day of Service is intended to empower individuals, strengthen communities, bridge barriers, create solutions to social problems and move us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a ‘Beloved Community,’” explains the corporation’s website.

This year, the Borough of Palmyra’s Day of Service had to be pushed back to the next federal holiday, Presidents’ Day, after a Code Blue weather emergency was declared and local weather forecasts predicted a drop to single-digit temperatures on MLK Day.

Given that some of the work would be performed outside, the borough decided to postpone plans to have residents volunteer to clean their local community center in observance of the holiday.

On Monday, Feb. 18, residents young and old showed up at the Palmyra Community Center to volunteer for the rescheduled Day of Service project. School organizations like Interact Club, local churches and Cub Scout troops all stepped up, rolled up their sleeves and pitched in.

According to Councilwoman Gina Tait, who was present at the event, it was important they reschedule for another holiday to allow young people to join in.

“We wanted the kids. Most of the kids that show up to our volunteer stuff are involved in everything so their weekends are jam-packed. With a day off on a Monday, things aren’t really done in the morning so we can get them,” said Tait.

According to Tait, she advertised the event as a great opportunity for high school students to earn volunteer hours they might need for National Honor Society, Interact Club or just something to add to a college resume.

“I have two in college. I know what was needed on their resumes for someone to look twice at them,” said Tait.

Among the groups volunteering at the community center were local Cub Scout Pack 9. Pack leader Amir Abdurahman brought his 6-year-old son, Sundiata, to join in the day of service. Despite being one of the youngest volunteers at the event, the Cub Scout pulled his own weight helping clean windows alongside his dad.

“We’re here to lend a helping hand. Cub Scouts are all about service, so we wanted to help out,” said Abdurahman.

For Abdurahman, the day represented not just a great opportunity to serve one’s community, but an opportunity to bring the people in the community together.

“Even though this is a day of service honoring the late, great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it’s important for people to come out and support their community. Without people, you don’t have a community, and this center is a centerpiece for people to come together and do things that celebrate themselves and advance themselves,” said Abdurahman.

Michele Sykes, scheduling coordinator for the community center, was instrumental in pulling the event together. She credits the day’s success to the response they received from the people and organizations in their community.

“The support’s been great from the community, I’m surprised to see everybody that came out. Hopefully this will be a regular event every year,” said Sykes. “I was a little concerned at first but the groups were excited and they came out.”

Despite Sykes’ pleasant surprise, Tait took the positive response in stride as business as usual for the people of Palmyra.

“It’s what the whole town is about. We all help each other,” said Tait.

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