MLK Day unites community, volunteers in Sussex County

Dara Laws Savage, right, is joined by other members of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority in filling bags with items of warmth at Auxiliary Unit 28’s MLK Day of Service event.

MILLSBORO — Five hundred peanut butter and jelly sandwiches was the goal.

But the crew at Auxiliary Unit 28’s 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service produced a double delight of 1,000 PB and Js.

“We stopped at 1,000. We ran out of bread! That didn’t count the jars remaining that also were donated,” said Auxiliary Unit 28’s Beth McGinn, co-organizer of the event. “It was an amazing day.”

An estimated 130 volunteers filled the Oak Orchard/Riverdale American Legion Post 28 hall Monday, teaming to pack 200 backpacks and 100 other bags in the community service event tied to a “Backpacks of Warmth” theme.

It was the largest volunteer turnout in the history of the MLK Day of Service event, first held in 2012. The event is staged annually – on the federal holiday honoring the slain civil rights leader – to promote community unity and service in helping others and the less fortunate.

Volunteers filled backpacks with assorted items, including winter hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, hand warmers, small fleece blankets, socks, hand sanitizers and tissues.

Backpacks were delivered to the Shepherd’s Office in Georgetown, the new Lewes-area Code Purple shelter at the former Troop 7 barracks, the Crisis House and the Boys & Girls Club.

“I have a jeep full to take to Home of the Brave,” said Ms. McGinn, adding there also may be a delivery to Casa San Francisco in Milton.

Anthony Taylor and 6-year-old daughter Kiera provide a drum performance with ties to African American history during the Western Sussex M.L.K. Day of Celebration Monday. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

“We will be freezing the PBJs for future deliveries,” said Ms. McGinn.

Helping hands included members from several Legion auxiliaries, including Unit 24 from Dagsboro, Junior Auxiliary members, Local Ladies of Long Neck, students from local schools, Delaware 50+ as well as other organizations, including AmeriCorps, Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority at Delaware State University, which returned for a fourth year, and the Incyte company.

“Incyte offers their employees paid time off to volunteer for events like this. They come every year – some from New Jersey,” said Ms. McGinn.

The AKA sorority also collected shoes.

Volunteers were treated to a pancake/sausage breakfast prior to the work bee.

Western Sussex MLK Day

While volunteers bustled in Eastern Sussex, a host of activities also took place across the county. From a morning Prayer Breakfast through afternoon events and activities, the 2020 Western Sussex MLK Day of Celebration played out to a “Dream it … Believe it … Achieve it” theme at the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club.

The keynote address was provided by Dr. Julius Mullen and Natasha Mullen, a husband/wife team involved in counseling, teaching and mentoring.

Ms. Mullen is certified in Delaware as a trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapist. Dr. Mullen is the chief clinical officer for Children & Families First of Delaware, overseeing a staff of more than 100.

The prestigious MLK Community Recognition Award for 2020 was awarded to Furman Sessoms and Joyce Sessoms, two retired state employees who opened The ARK Educational Resource Center after-school tutoring program in Laurel.

“The Sessoms were honored for their commitment to providing educational resources and counseling services,” said Pat Jones, chairwoman of MLK Dream Team that facilitated Monday’s event.

This year marked a resurrection of the MLK Day of Celebration.

“This celebration has been dormant since 2015,” said Ms. Jones. “I was extremely impressed by the outcome of participants. It was even more rewarding to partner with the Western Sussex Boys and Girls Club to bring our community together. We are already buzzing about next year’s event.”

With the MLK Day of Celebration in the books, the attention turns to planning for the 25th edition of the Eastern Shore AFRAM Festival in Seaford, set for Aug. 8.