City Year Serves in Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. said “Life’s most persistent question is: what are you doing for others?”  These profound words from Doctor King remind us of the empowerment and joy one can receive through a lifetime dedication to service. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day stands as a national holiday to encourage civic engagement in service work that strengthens our communities and echoes Kings’ commitment to fighting injustice.



On Monday, January 21, 2013 Seattle’s entire City Year corps, staff and over 40 volunteers gathered at Denny International Middle School in West Seattle to engage in physical service. We served as a a team of dedicated children, current and former City Year board members, and employees of Starbucks; including President of US Operations, Cliff Burrows and Regional Director, Mitch Evans.
Denny International is a new building with many blank walls. To create a more welcoming and supportive environment for our scholars, we spent the day painting a large mural in one of the school’s main stairwells. Assistant Principal Patricia Rangel spoke to the powerful artwork designed by Intensive School Partnership Coordinator for Seattle Public School District, Nate Sanders, calling the mural “A project that’s an evolving mirror to our entire community about the importance of knowing our history, remembering our heroes, and recognizing that we contribute to this journey of justice every day in the commitment we make to our students and our work together.”

Across the street, at the park which is part of The Southwest Teen Life Center and former location of the old Denny School building, City Year corps members and volunteers got their hands dirty weeding and landscaping rain gardens.  Each of the sizeable rain gardens are critical to the ecological health of the community and provide a natural filtration of our region’s rain water before reaching Puget Sound.  The project’s lead coordinator, Gretchen DeDecker with Seattle Public Schools claims the job done on Monday translates to nearly three months of staff work time. DeDecker thanks the corps, stating: “Today you reminded me why I LOVE City Year! Your positive spirit, energy, organization skills, and endurance made such a huge difference at the raingardens.”

Corps Member Sam Boutelle proudly reflects on the meaning and impact of our MLK day service: “The civil rights movement demonstrated the imperative for the unity of purpose in effecting social change.  Although we didn’t move mountains on MLK day, I do believe that the collaboration and fellowship we got to enjoy as we served made the day brighter for all involved and demonstrated the power that we share together.”

Written by Becka Gross, City Year corps member serving as a dedicated tutor and mentor this year to the students at Denny International Middle School.

Thank You, Starbucks!


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On Friday, January 27th, the City Year Seattle/King County corps had the opportunity to plan and prepare for the lives they will lead beyond their service year. Sarah Maynard and Chris Burns, longtime Starbucks employees who work to create an effective and highly … Continue reading

Everybody Can be Great Because Everybody Can Serve

Starbucks partners, family and friends

“Everybody can be great because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

On Monday January 17th, more than 300 Seattle citizens honored Dr. King’s legacy by rolling up their sleeves, getting muddy and giving back to our community and our planet by improving Cheasty Greenspace on Beacon Hill. “It’s our responsibility to steward this gift… [of the environment],” said Jevon Washington, who signed up to volunteer through his employer and City Year Seattle partner: Starbucks.

“Cheasty Greenspace is a big deal,” explained an EarthCorps staff member briefing the volunteers on Monday morning, “At 43 acres, it’s the largest woodland habitat in South Seattle, and it acts as a giant water filter, cleaning the polluted storm water that runs into Puget Sound.”

After the morning briefings were finished, volunteers went to work planting trees, spreading mulch, clearing invasive ivy and pulling dreaded blackberry bushes. “No one spends an entire day pulling thorny blackberry bushes without some scrapes and scars to show for it, but it was worth it,” City Year corps member Kiernan Patenaude commented, showing off her “scrapes of honor.”

City Year corps members are always energetic.

In addition to working with EarthCorps, who hosted the project, various companies and organizations from all over Seattle recruited volunteers. Starbucks showed up in force, turning out with 37 employees and their family members to serve and volunteer. Our friends at Starbucks also kept all of us volunteers warm through their donations of coffee, pastries and sandwiches.

“Starbucks is dedicated to making a difference in our community, which is just one of the reasons I enjoy working there,” said Kerry Chamberlin, who manages a Starbucks near a City Year Diplomas Now site and who regularly donates coffee and pastries to community events – including those sponsored by City Year.

Starbucks enthusiastically helps with blackberries

City Year Seattle/King County thanks everyone who honors Dr. King’s legacy by volunteering in our community day in and day out. Seattle wouldn’t be the same place without your heart full of grace and your soul generated by love.

Text and photos by Adam Nance, Development Director at  City Year Seattle/King County