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Published: Wednesday, December 28, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

Teens carry on MLK’s legacy as community volunteers

On a day off from school, Olga Rotar didn't need to be talked into getting out of the house to help other people.
"For me, everything we do with the YMCA is fun," the 17-year-old said. "It was never boring. I said, 'Sure, let's go.' "
For the past two years, Rotar has volunteered for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Again this year on the Jan. 16 holiday, the Arlington teen plans to join other students in volunteer service projects around Snohomish County.
The local event is sponsored by United Way of Snohomish County's Youth United program, the YMCA of Snohomish County, Senior Corps and Catholic Community Services of Western Washington. Observed across the country, the day of service is part of United We Serve, a push for volunteerism by the White House and the Corporation for National and Community Service.
In 2010 and 2011, Rotar was among about 20 teens from the Minority Achievers Program at the Marysville Y who visited homes of elderly and disabled people. They spent much of the King holiday doing chores.
"We went to houses where frail people needed help. We asked what they wanted done," Rotar said. "Some of them asked, 'Can you guys come back?' And we did, we went back and mowed lawns."
Rotar, who's still involved with the Marysville Y, is a Running Start student at Everett Community College. "I want to be a nurse," she said.
Neil Parekh, a United Way of Snohomish County spokesman, said helping wasn't a one-day event for Rotar and others who continued to volunteer.
Janell Braxton, now an Edmonds Community College student, spent King day 2011 visiting a woman who lives at Bethany of the Northwest's retirement facility in Everett.
"We were with a group that day, but she asked if anyone could continue to volunteer after that," said Braxton, an 18-year-old graduate of Mariner High School.
The Lynnwood teen spent her visits doing chores, visiting, and playing her viola for the elderly woman. "She was almost 90," Braxton said. "She was really forgetful, but very sweet."
Braxton, once a foster child, learned about the day of service through Youthnet, an agency that provides independent living services for young people who have been in foster care.
This year, about 200 students are expected to take part, Parekh said. The Jan. 16 projects will begin with 11 a.m. sign-in and kick-off events at four sites: the Y's branches in Everett, Marysville and Mukilteo, and at the Stanwood Community & Senior Center. Parekh said the Stanwood center is a new site for the volunteer projects.
Transportation will not be provided. Parents are welcome at kick-off events and are encouraged to help with rides for their teens to volunteer sites. Teams will be headed by a member of Senior Corps or another adult volunteer. Catholic Community Services will provide supplies, but volunteers may want to bring cleaning gloves. Jobs, which may be indoor projects or yard chores, will end at 3 p.m.
She's on a college campus now, but Rotar said that "of course" she'll be back to help this year.
In Snohomish County, Parekh said, the holiday is "an intergenerational celebration."
"It's transforming Dr. King's life mission and teachings into community service," he said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460;
Teens needed as volunteers
Teens ages 14 to 19 are needed as volunteers for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on Jan. 16. Sign-in and kick-off activities at sites in Everett, Marysville, Mukilteo and Stanwood begin at 11 a.m. and jobs end at 3 p.m. Jan. 16. To register or for information, contact United Way of Snohomish County at or 425-374-5526.

Story tags » CharityVolunteerHolidays

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