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Many residents and organizations in Southwest Florida are joining the cause to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the upcoming federal holiday that celebrates his birthday by contributing to their communities in organized and creative ways, with some taking the day on instead of the day off.
“We are answering Martin Luther King’s quote: ‘Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?’” said Michelle Whitmore.
Whitmore and Camara McClellan, both of Naples, are offering their yoga skills by hosting a class on the beach as a fundraiser for PACE Center for Girls, from 9 to 10 a.m., Fri., Jan. 24, at Vanderbilt Beach, 280 Vanderbilt Beach Rd., Naples. There is no minimum donation amount to participate.
Whitmore, McClellan and about nine other yoga teacher trainees from Love Yoga Center decided to focus on helping PACE Center for Girls, located in Immokalee, because they felt aligned with the organization’s mission to help at-risk girls, providing them with a safe environment and opportunity for a better future through education, counseling, training and advocacy, said Whitmore.
The group of yoga teachers are also taking turns offering yoga to PACE students at the center in Immokalee.
“Our answer to King’s question of ‘What are you doing for others?’ is: We are serving them,” said Whitmore.
Whether contributing money or time, Whitmore encouraged others take some action to “shake up that feeling of separateness.”
“People can serve their community just by being aware of small opportunities to uplift and change a person’s day,” said McClellan.
If you would like to contribute to PACE Center for Girls, but yoga isn’t your thing, visit pacecenter.org or call (239) 657-2400 to learn more about how you can serve.
There are several other organized events to participate in and everyone is encouraged to find a way to answer the national call for service by giving of their time, talents or resources in creative ways on the actual federal holiday or any other day in honor of the slain Civil Rights leader.
Collier County School District officials are encouraging participation and many are leading the way in the 17th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade, at 11 a.m. Jan. 20. Collier County Superintendent Kamela Patton is co-grand marshal, along with Wells Fargo Bank. Collier County School Board members Julie Sprague and Roy Terry will also march in King’s honor, along with bands from several area JROTC’s, including Lely High, Immokalee High, Golden Gate High, Barron Collier High, Naples High School and Palmetto Ridge High.
The 2014 MLK Parade and Celebration begins at the corner of Broad Avenue South and Third Street South in downtown Naples and concludes with a celebration kicking off at noon in Cambier Park. Sponsorship and other information is available on the website of the Collier County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), naacpcolliercounty.com, or by calling (239) 249-9738.
Other service ideas can be found by contacting area churches, schools and nonprofits or visiting MLKDay.gov. The website includes all the information about the annual MLK Day of Service, which is a part of United We Serve, the president’s national call to service for Americans of all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to the nation’s and your community’s most pressing problems.
The website offers listings of projects, organizations and events, such as the 8th Annual Run for the Paws, a 5k run or walk to benefit the Humane Society of Naples, set for Saturday, Jan. 25. The race begins at 8 a.m. at Naples Municipal Airport.
Runners, walkers and their sponsors aren’t the only people offering their service to at-risk animals. About 14 college students are coming to Naples from the University of Florida the weekend of MLK Day to volunteer at Shy Wolf Sanctuary. The students will be helping to update animal enclosures, clear vegetation and do other hands-on labor projects for the nonprofit in Golden Gate Estates that is home for many rescued animals, including prairie dogs, coyotes, bobcats, panthers, gopher tortoises, wolves and wolf-dogs.
“Our mission is to educate people and reconnect them with animals. We care for animals that can’t be released into the wild and were in situations where they were abused, neglected or economic changes didn’t allow for continued proper care of the animals,” said Shane Blitz, of Shy Wolf Sanctuary.
Shy Wolf Sanctuary, located at 1161 27th Street SW, off Pine Ridge Road where it turns to White Boulevard just east of Collier Boulevard, is open on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Visit shywolfsanctuary.com and fill out a form in advance if interested in volunteering.
Lee County is also in need of volunteers to repair harm caused by youth against victims and neighborhoods beginning Jan. 18, the Saturday before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and in the future, to serve on a Neighborhood Accountability Board.
“Instead of focusing on who broke the law, what laws were broken and how we will punish the youth, this process takes a restorative justice perspective, focusing the attention on what harm was done and what needs to be done to repair the harm,” said Nora Donato-Hitchcock of Lee County Human Services.
Youth can be eligible to participate.
“There’s a huge need for people living within the city of Fort Myers and Bonita Springs. We do serve the Bonita Springs area and we have a good amount of kids that come from that area,” said Donato-Hitchcock.
Collier County residents who live close to Bonita Springs may also choose to get involved, she said.
Training is scheduled 9:30 a.m. Sat., Jan. 18, at the Lee County Department of Human Services, 2440 Thompson St., Fort Myers. Other trainings will also be scheduled. Contact Lee County Human Services, (239) 533-7947 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.