One of the things he recognized early on was the power of service and volunteerism to strengthen communities and achieve common goals. In recognition of his efforts, former Pennsylvania Sen. Harris Wofford and Atlanta Congressman John Lewis co-authored the King Holiday and Service Act.
The federal legislation challenges Americans to transform the King Holiday into a day of volunteer service in Dr. King's honor. It is a time when people of all ages and backgrounds come together to meet tangible needs such as fixing up a school or senior center. These volunteer efforts build a sense of community and mutual responsibility.
The “Day of Service” coincides with the federal holiday which this year falls on Monday, Jan. 17.
Bradley County residents have always had a commitment to serving their community. I am amazed at the number of people who give of their time and energy to make Bradley County a better place. Each year a coalition of local organizations such as the NAACP, 100 Black Men of Bradley County, Lee University and Cleveland State Community College come together to plan a series of events on MLK Day of Service.
But this is just a small sample of the hundreds of volunteer service activities in Bradley County. More than 400 volunteers help operate the Bradley County Parks and Recreation baseball and softball programs. This does not include the many volunteers who work in the football and basketball programs.
Each year the United Way of Bradley County, Inc. campaign is a success because of more than 100 volunteers who head the fundraising effort. More than 20 United Way member agencies, programs and special services receive these funds. Yet, United Way organizations such as the Boys and Girls Clubs, Cleveland Family Y, American Red Cross, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts could not survive without the hundreds of Bradley County volunteers.
According to the IRS, Tennessee ranks fourth in the nation in claims filed for charitable giving. A publication called Volunteering in America says 1.3 million Tennessee volunteers each give more than 162.2 hours of service every year. This service contributes $3.4 billion to Tennessee's economy. I think it's clear that Bradley County volunteers are leading the way.
There are hundreds of volunteer opportunities in our county and I urge you to sign up. Whether teaching literacy skills with the Learning Center for Adults and Families, helping an individual develop the skills they need to get a job or volunteering to help build a Habitat for Humanity house, acts of service can help others improve their own lives while uplifting the spirit of those who serve. Community service bridges barriers between people and teaches us that in the end we are more alike than we are different.
There is a role for everyone to play in building a better community. As I reflect upon the hundreds of people who are already serving, I must again say that Bradley County is Tennessee at its best.