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Living the dream: Volunteers honor a legendary man through service projects on the national holiday

by: Jonathan House, Volunteers at the Beaverton Community Center made special greeting cards for homebound seniors Monday as part of Martin Luther King Jr. Day 
service projects across the region.

Malcolm and Sandy Hodge were looking for a meaningful way to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day with their two daughters, Cali, 11, and Elise, 9.

They found an ideal volunteer opportunity through the United Way and Hands On Greater Portland's MLK Day Celebration Through Service event.

The Hodges were among 240 people who participated at one of 14 community service projects across the region Monday, two of which took place in Beaverton.

'I liked the idea of having a day of community service instead of just having a day off,' Sandy Hodge said. 'We were able to find a family friendly project that we could all do together.'

The Hodge family joined a group of 20 volunteers at the Beaverton Community Center and spent the afternoon creating personalized greeting cards for homebound seniors. The cards will be added to meal packages delivered to seniors through Loaves and Fishes, The Meals-On-Wheels People.

Elise carefully cut green triangles and pink squares out of construction paper to decorate a bright yellow card featuring a puppy picture.

'I want it to make them happy,' the fourth-grader said.

Across the way, Elise's older sister and father each added completed creations to a growing pile of letters and cards offering warm wishes.

'It makes me really happy to be here,' Cali said. 'I feel like I'm helping somebody.

'I hope when they get my card, it will help make their day.'

Rachel Rappaport, Washington County coordinator for Hands On Greater Portland, encouraged everyone to use their imaginations to make each card special and unique.

'I hope everyone leaves here today with the satisfaction of knowing that by making these cards, they are touching the lives of seniors who otherwise might not have a lot of contact with others outside their home,' Rappaport said.

The goal of the Celebration Through Service event was to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy of community engagement, said Maileen Hamto, a United Way spokeswoman.

'It's a wonderful way to get people involved in their communities and help out nonprofits and schools in our area,' Hamto said.

Earlier in the day, more than a dozen Americorps volunteers picked up paint brushes and got to work brightening up a Cooper Mountain home run by The Edwards Center for five developmentally disabled adults.

'Our residents are out working at jobs in the community and they are going to come home to a freshly painted environment,' said CB Wright, community relations manager for The Edwards Center. 'It's a luxury for us to be able to paint the interior.

'To have the house look nice and sparkling clean is a real treat. All of the colors were selected by our residents.'

In four hours, the Americorps volunteers freshened up the kitchen with a warm yellow, lightened the hall and rooms with a soft tan and added a feature wall with a darker shade of tan in the living room.

'I haven't painted in years,' admitted Kathryn DeBros, an Americorps volunteer who coordinated her group's involvement in the community service event.

'I think it's great that we're helping out,' added Sara Juveland, another Americorps volunteer.

Watching the home's transformation was rewarding for all of the volunteer painters.

'It feels like we're reconnecting with Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision for working together to better our community,' said Justin Davidson, a Hands On Greater Portland project leader.