Celebrating MLK by giving back: Peninsula Multifaith Coalition hosts its fourth annual day of service, more than 500 participants volunteer

Volunteers gather at North Shoreview Elementary School to help construct new benches for students as part of the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition’s fourth annual Multifaith Day of Service.

Hundreds of people gathered at locations across San Mateo County for an afternoon of volunteerism, to connect with others and to support local schools as part of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The Peninsula Multifaith Coalition rallied more than 500 volunteers to visit nearly 25 locations as part of the fourth annual Multifaith Day of Service.

From gathering clothes and books for needy children to serving lunch to shelter residents, hundreds of people opted to spend the holiday striving to promote the ideals King stood for by helping those in need.

People from various faiths, parents, students and more gathered at the North Shoreview Elementary School Monday morning to support several worthy causes such as literacy programs and campus beautification projects. Putting aside differences and coming together for a common goal helps commemorate King’s legacy in a tangible way, said Connie Winter-Eulberg, pastor of Saint Andrews Lutheran Church in San Mateo.

“This is our big service day and we’re gathering Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and Christians and we’re all gathering together,” Winter-Eulberg said. “When you think about all the violence that’s happening in the world, when we’re gathering together today, there’s no fighting, there’s no arguing. There is a lot of ‘thank you very much,’ ‘so glad to meet you,’ ‘you’re now one of my friends.’ So this is how we bring peace to the world; doing stuff like this.”

From purchasing wood to build new benches for students to sit on, to revamping gardens with new plants, volunteers gave the local school some much needed tender love and care.

Race, religion and age seemed irrelevant as a broad spectrum of people worked side by side.

Christopher Vandrey, a Saint Andrews congregation member and the father of two sons who attend North Shoreview Elementary School, said he was happy to pass on a positive message to his boys.

“It’s just to kind of give these guys an idea about being invested in your school and learning volunteering. And there’s also kind of a really positive MLK message,” Vandrey said.

Seven-year-old Warren Vandrey seemed to blissfully enjoy the morning outdoors helping to prune his school’s planters and garden. When asked what he learned about King in school, Warren Vandrey had clearly retained a key message about the late reverend.

“He changed the world. And [taught] that white and black people should be treated equally,” Warren Vandrey said.

Parent Glenn Fukudome, a member of the school’s Greens and Grounds Committee, said he was impressed to see how many people came to volunteer.

“The amount of workforce we have here, there’s a lot of equipment moving and a lot of tasks are being completed. It’s pretty awesome,” Fukudome said. “To give back to the community, it’s just a wonderful event.”

The day of service also provided a critical opportunity for some year-round support as literacy educators taught parents how to best support their children — a worthy cause in the primarily Hispanic neighborhood, said Winter-Eulberg and school Principal Phyllis Harrison.

“There needs to be a little extra care and attention here. That’s why we’re doing the reading buddy program. So there are literacy educators from all along the Peninsula who are volunteering their time today in order to train our volunteers, for them to then teach parents how to teach their kids,” Winter-Eulberg said.

Harrison said she hopes some of those who joined to commemorate King will keep the spirit of volunteerism alive and help support the local elementary school and children who need extra support learning how to read.

“It’s been wonderful. We have so many different projects going on, we’re really helping the students and their families because they’re learning to read, to teach their children and different skills. The school’s also getting beautified and the benches are being made,” Harrison said. “It’s just a wonderful community project and it really helps our school.”

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