The smell of Pine-Sol and fresh paint Monday morning permeated the teen center of SS. Columba & Brigid Church at North Division and Hickory streets.
Sky blue paint was rolled onto ceiling tiles in one room. Another room got a thorough cleaning. Supplies haphazardly placed in a separate storage area were organized neatly onto shelves. Bathroom stalls received a new coat of paint, too.
It was all part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service in Western New York, with hundreds of volunteers using time off from school and work on the holiday to answer what the slain civil rights leader called life’s most persistent and urgent question – “What are you doing for others?”
Sandra Garrett, who works as a cook and also is enrolled at Erie Community College, said she felt drawn to do volunteer service Monday because of the significance of the holiday and King’s legacy.
“I just feel good about it. I just felt eager to do it,” said Garrett, who helped clean out and organize the storage room.
About 50 volunteers, including many from Buffalo AmeriCorps and the Belle Center, assisted at SS. Columba & Brigid.
Other area service projects included Tapestry Charter School students moving furniture, supplies and equipment into a newly renovated space for programs of People Inc., a local nonprofit agency; a food drive involving about 300 volunteers in the Village of Hamburg; and the Western New York Regional Volunteer Center’s packaging and distribution of 800 free weatherization kits for area homes.
“We like to think of this as a day on, rather than a day off,” said Callie Johnson, marketing communications director for the Belle Center, one of thousands of nonprofit organizations nationwide participating in the service projects.
Antwan Diggs, who oversees the teen center, said the projects Monday could not have been done without a large volunteer response.
“We have no maintenance person here. You just can’t keep up with all of this stuff,” Diggs said.
The teen center is in the church’s Sister Karen Center, named for a nun who ran the teen programs and, like King, espoused nonviolence. Teens can hang out and play video games on Friday and Saturday nights, and they are counseled on peaceful conflict resolution.
“We thought this would be the perfect place to serve, at a nonviolence center,” Johnson said.
In Hamburg, volunteers went door to door collecting more than 2,000 pounds of nonperishable food from front porches. The food then was handed over to the Food Bank of Western New York, which will distribute it to area pantries.
Back in Buffalo, about 20 volunteers from the Tapestry High School Student Exchange Program – including several students from Costa Rica – spent several hours moving programs of People Inc. into a newly renovated space at 2635 Delaware Ave.
One of the programs assists seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease; another serves individuals with brain trauma. Those programs will be able to use the new space today.