AP NEWS

Volunteers give back on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

January 23, 2019

Volunteers gathered Monday at a home east of Burlington to give back to their community.

They used their day off work for Martin Luther King Jr. Day to chop and store donated firewood that will be delivered by Community Action of Skagit County to the elderly and disabled who need it to heat their homes.

The program helps about 25 households annually, said Diane Rogers, program specialist with Community Action’s Senior & Disabled Services.

Even in a relatively warm winter, Rogers said the demand for firewood is high.

“We just try to find those that need it most,” said Robert McCracken, volunteer services coordinator with the nonprofit.

McCracken said Community Action partners with volunteers on its firewood program annually on Martin Luther King Jr. Day but has crews from the Washington Conservation Corps helping out every Saturday.

Among the volunteers Monday was U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, who comes back to his district every year to volunteer.

“This (cause) is particularly important,” he said. “For some people in Skagit County, this is their fuel for heat, for cooking.”

National days of service such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day give people the opportunity to learn more about service organizations in their community and find new ways to give back, Larsen said.

For part of his hourlong shift, Larsen operated a brand-new hydraulic wood splitter that was purchased with a grant from the Anacortes Rotary Club. He worked alongside 12-year-old volunteer Garrett Hull.

Garrett, who asked to volunteer with his father Shawn Hull, said he was glad to help those who need some assistance.

Shawn Hull owns Highline Construction in Bellingham and regularly donates time and equipment to the Community Action firewood program.

“It’s always worth it, because you always get it back somehow,” Garrett Hull said.

Volunteers also signed on Monday to work with Skagit Habitat for Humanity, helping finalize work at the Summerlynd development in Mount Vernon.

Executive Director Teresa Pugh said seven volunteers from the Washington Conservation Corps worked on landscaping and planted flowers. Eight more sorted equipment in preparation for work on new homes in Sedro-Woolley.

Pugh said the nonprofit relies on its regular volunteers, but it values the influx of those who pitch in on days of service.

“It makes it possible to get a bunch of work done in a short period of time, in one day,” she said.

Getting new people exposed to Habitat for Humanity and its vision is part of what King was after, Pugh said.

“That’s what his vision was,” she said. “How do you get involved in your community and make a difference?”