Thousands honor the legacy of Dr. King on MLK Day

By United Way of King County, on January 16, 2017 | In Fighting Homelessness, Volunteering

The to-do list is long at the Orion Center in downtown Seattle, where YouthCare serves some 1,200 young people experiencing homelessness every year. The kitchen, which dishes up 30,000 meals annually, needs a deep clean. There’s laundry to do and clothes that need to be swapped out in the clothing closet now that winter is here. “It’s a busy building,” reflects Jody Waits, Communications Officer at YouthCare. “There’s foot traffic constantly. We’ll have 20 guests here every night and that means there’s a lot of wear and tear and a lot of things to pick up and clean up. We want to make sure we’re hygienic, but also want to make it lovely and sparkly because everybody deserves to come back to something pretty and welcoming.”

YouthCare is getting a big boost in volunteer labor from Starbucks, a lead sponsor of United Way’s MLK Day. John Kelly, Starbucks Sr. VP of Global Responsibility, believes that service is a year-round commitment and MLK kicks off a year of service for employees.

“ I think more and more, everyone recognizes that homelessness is indeed a crisis.
More is needed: more volunteerism, more resources, more collective action.”
~ John Kelly, Starbucks

MLK Day volunteers

Across King County, close to 3,000 volunteers honored Dr. King’s legacy of compassion and service and #United4MLKDay by volunteering at more than 130 projects.

They served meals to people experiencing homelessness, created and filled birthday bags for low-income children, restored neglected green spaces, and waxed skis for kids with special needs. More than 90 non-profits in the community benefited from the community labor.

Hours after volunteers finish cleaning windows and organizing storage spaces at YouthCare, young clients will walk through the door knowing someone cares.

“This helps our young people who have typically not been able to count on an adult in their life and have not had promises kept” says Waits. “Even though they may never interact with our volunteers directly, they’ll come into a space that somebody clearly took care of and made a priority today to ensure they see a great place and have a wonderful experience.”

To find out more about volunteering throughout the year, visit


All comments are approved before they are posted to the site.