There’s a reason for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous quote, “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve.” Community service, especially inclusive community service, does so much more than benefit the person receiving it. Inclusive community service creates opportunities to build and strengthen connections among members of the community who might not otherwise meet and work together. This was the case for The Arc of Davidson County and Greater Nashville, which organized activities with Upsilon Psi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) Sorority and the Nashville IDD Housing Group.
In 2016, The Arc of Davidson County & Greater Nashville was awarded a MLK Day of Service* grant to provide food assistance to people in need in their community. The chapter reached out to Upsilon Psi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) Sorority to plan an event for the MLK Jr. holiday. AKA, famous for its members Toni Morrison and Star Jones, and fabulous for its pink and green colors, is the oldest Greek organization founded by black women.
Community service is an important value of AKA, and members of the sorority and The Arc of Davidson County and Greater Nashville teamed up to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King’s life and legacy by volunteering at Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee in January 2017. All volunteers had a great time. AKA member Belva Weathersby shared, “as a volunteer it is important for me to make a difference, and to be able to see the difference I can make to someone’s life. By volunteering with The Arc Davidson County & Greater Nashville, I truly enjoyed my experience, and hope to volunteer again.”
The Arc of Davidson County and Greater Nashville continued volunteering in the spring, and reached out to the Nashville IDD Housing Group, a nonprofit that provides affordable housing to people with IDD and students at Vanderbilt University’s School of Divinity. These residents live alongside one another in a supportive community. The chapter donated forty boxes of food to residents, who per Carolyn Naifeh, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Nashville IDD Housing Group, have food budgets as low as $30 each week.
Both The Arc of Davidson County and Greater Nashville’s experiences illustrate how The MLK Day of Service Project can act as a community web, weaving together members of AKA, Vanderbilt Divinity Students, and people with IDD, who without the project might not have had reason to come together.
For more on inclusive volunteering and how disability organizations can build partnerships that serve community needs and strengthen The Arc’s presence in the community, visit https://www.thearc.org/inclusive-volunteering.
*In 2015, The Arc was selected by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency that leads the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, to plan and execute volunteer projects that unite Americans in service for the MLK Day of Service and throughout the year. To date, 16 chapters of The Arc around the country have organized inclusive volunteer service projects where people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) volunteer alongside people without disabilities to provide food to people in their communities who are in need. In total, these projects have brought together over 1,000 volunteers to serve more than 14,000 people in need.