Dr. King was the chief spokesman for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s and a man of great accomplishment.
One of the things he understood was the power of service and volunteerism to strengthen communities and achieve common goals. In recognition of his efforts, communities across the nation emphasize an annual “Day of Service.” 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.
As mayor, I can proudly say that 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 that includes the local branch of the NAACP, 100 Black Men of Bradley County, Lee University and Cleveland State Community College plans a series of events on MLK Day of Service that begins at 9 a.m. The day ends with the annual Dream Keepers Ceremony at Lee. The event honors area youth who have given valuable service to this community.
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 & Girls Clubs of Cleveland, Cleveland Family YMCA, Hiwassee Chapter of the American Red Cross, Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. 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 1.2 million Tennessee volunteers each give more than 156.9 hours of service every year. This service contributes $3.1 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 or helping an individual build the skills they need to get a job, 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.