Volunteers are the Key to Success

Note from Empowerline:

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that people follow all CDC guidelines, including washing hands, wearing a mask, maintaining social distance, and avoiding crowds. Nevertheless, there are still ways you can volunteer in your community on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service 2021, and year-round, whether you prefer to help from your own home or are able to be outside. Some ideas include:

  • Volunteer virtually or over-the-phone with programs such as One2One that offer virtual connections.
  • Offer to do some yardwork for an older neighbor, such as cleaning up their leaves. Consider bringing your own equipment or arranging equipment needs in advance, so you can maintain social distance while you are in their yard.
  • Do curbside pick-up for groceries, meals, and/or other necessities, and deliver to a homebound neighbor. Be sure to wash your hands and/or use gloves as well as wear your mask and maintain proper distance.
  • Simply pick up your phone and call friends and neighbors to catch up and see how they’re doing.

Even though 2021 looks different than other years, you can still make a difference in your community while staying safe and following COVID-19 protocols. Remember to maintain proper distance and do not enter other individuals’ homes.

The following is a look back on the 2020 Decatur MLK Service Project written by guest author Lee Ann Harvey.

A Look Back on the 2020 Decatur MLK Service Project

The City of Decatur’s 2020 three-day weekend Martin Luther King Jr. Service Project was once again a success in spite of some drizzly and cold weather. There were still 954 hardy volunteers who were determined to do whatever it took to make sure our older residents could continue to live safely, comfortably, warmly, and affordably in their homes.

Group Shot Near Dumpster for Day of Service
Group of Volunteers on MLK Day of Service
Volunteers Helping with Check-In
Volunteers Helping with Check-In









Volunteer groups ranged from high school students to skilled professionals to home “handy people” to unskilled volunteers who wanted to help in any way. This year’s volunteers even included visitors from Los Angeles who googled “MLK events in Atlanta” and came to volunteer. No matter where they were from or what skill or the lack of skill they had, there was an important job for everyone to fill.

Young volunteer wearing Georgia State sweatshirt
Volunteer Helping in Kitchen

Volunteers worked on a total of 32 homes. One of the homes only needed to have yard work done. The others had both house repairs and yard work.

Man repairing a handicap ramp with drill
Volunteer Repairing a Handicap Ramp

The scope of some of these repairs was a challenge. Thanks to partners such as professional roofers, seven homes had roofs repaired. Professional plumbers and electricians made numerous repairs, including installing a new water heater to replace one that leaked and fixing a broken furnace.

A home built in the late 1800’s that had not been updated since the 1920’s needed an incredible amount of help. An old claw foot tub had to be removed in preparation for adding a laundry room.

One homeowner received a washer, dryer, and refrigerator to replace his nonworking ones. New cabinets were put into another home and broken countertops were replaced. A kitchen was reconfigured in order to make another home more livable.

Two people laying floor tile
Two Volunteers Laying Floor Tile
Volunteer Scraping Tub
Volunteer Scraping Side of Bath Tub
Hole in the Floor with Man Repairing It
Volunteer Helping Patch Up Big Hole in Floor

Rotten wood and water damage have always been some of the biggest problems in these homes. Repairs included replacing rotted laundry room, kitchen, and crawlspace floors.

A kitchen floor in one home was sinking due to a faucet leak that also caused the kitchen counter to become separated. In another home, windowsills were replaced just before they were ready to cause major damage. Other homes had leaking toilets replaced.

Two city employees volunteering
Volunteers Removing Debris

So much work was done on these homes that three industrial sized dumpsters were filled with construction debris.

Thanks to a partnership with Southface Institute, two homes received intensive weatherization by Southface volunteers, and both homes were insulated. One of the homeowners raved to the Southface volunteers about how warm she was and that she actually had to turn down her thermostat!

Unfortunately, the 2021 MLK, Jr. Service Project has been canceled due to lingering and ongoing issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the hands-on nature of the annual event, the COVID-19 pandemic does not allow us to hold the Service Project safely in 2021. Visit www.MLKServiceProject.com for more information about past projects and to find out how you can become involved in the future.

Lee Ann Harvey

Lee Ann is the City of Decatur’s Lifelong Community manager and works to implement the lifelong community vision spelled out in Decatur’s 2010 Strategic Plan. She provides staff support to the Lifelong Community Advisory Board and the Decatur Youth Council. Lee Ann develops and implements projects that respond to a variety of lifelong community issues such as aging in place, intra-city transportation options for older adults, and affordable housing. She also coordinates the annual MLK Jr. Service Project, A Season of Giving/Christmas Decatur, and the Decatur Neighborhood Alliance. In her free time, Lee Ann loves to see the USA by taking cross-country road trips.