MLK Day 2021- Actions to Choose Hope Over Cynicism

The constant churn of disconcerting news can leave one disheartened. As we watched the images of violence at our capital unfold across screens over the past week, it is easy to feel we have lost control or are falling out of step with the goal to transform our communities towards greater kindness, generosity and rightful action for our fellow neighbor. In such moments it is easy to feel cynical about progress.

I know that I have felt the pull of cynicism this week, the urge to simply sit back, disconnect, and go insular. But this morning I was reminded when this this quote from the 2016 State of the Union came across my newsfeed.

“In your daily acts of citizenship, I see our future unfolding–Clear eyed. Big Hearted. Undaunted by the challenge. Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”- President Barack Obama.

In these words, I was reminded that it is only because of those willing to step up every day for their communities that change happens. With every gain there is backlash and yet the march continues because there are those “undaunted by the challenge.” I was reminded that it is the everyday actions that we take that demonstrate our desire as citizens to make our future better.

If I have learned anything from 2020 it is that people will not be deterred from doing good.

Despite a public health crisis, the ongoing struggles with racism, wildfires, and deep strains to our social safety fabric, community members connected with the Volunteer Center at every turn to say, “How can I help?”…. Thousands of people stepped up to help with the fire and pandemic response and to give back to their neighbors.

In all, the reach out to the Volunteer Center and willingness to take action in 2020 was SIMPLY ASTOUNDING. Over 10,000 people joined our volunteer family by registering to volunteer, donating, or giving gifts. More people than ever before in our history stepped up to give during the holidays allowing us to serve over 650 families in need, and over 50,000 people connected with us online to learn about new ways to make a difference in Santa Cruz County!

As we head into the next week ready to celebrate Martin Luther King Day 2021 with acts of service, I am holding tight to the commitment we made to our community at the close of 2020.

With your continued support we will rise to every challenge that comes our way. We know that when we act together, bringing our creativity and resources– big or small to the table, we can generate incredible change.

With that promise we want to ensure that you have meaningful ways to take action on MLK Day despite our inability to come together in person this year for what is traditionally a beloved day of community.

We believe they greatest act of solidarity we can provide is to keep each other safe by staying home and there are still plenty of ways to make a meaningful difference right from your living room.

We invite you to view our At Home Volunteer List for ways to contribute on Monday.

Options range from one-time actions like making cards for isolated seniors or crafting dog toys for our local shelter to longer term commitments to a regularly scheduled virtual volunteer opportunity like tutoring or nonprofit administrative support.

One option you will find on this list is our Writing Hope for the World Project that is annually organized by our YouthServe teens and staff.  Inspired by Martin Luther King’s letter from Birmingham Jail, community members are invited to write a letter of encouragement, support, or thanks to the organization or nonprofit of your choice. You are welcome to write to a social justice organization in Santa Cruz County or across the nation!

Additionally, we want to connect with you with opportunities for virtual conversation that help us push forward on the wisdom and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King happening on MLK day and beyond. 

For an excellent summary of the range of virtual opportunities in honor of MLK Day, visit the Santa Cruz County Nonprofit Connection Newsletter posted by Rose Filicetti, it bursting with ways for you to celebrate, engage, and learn in the next week.

Three additional opportunities we want to highlight are the ongoing series of Listen, Learn, Act Workshops from the Points of Light Foundation , a special a poetry reading and conversation that is part of the Institute of Arts and Sciences Visualizing Abolition Series happening on Jan 26th, and finally a unique opportunity on MLK Day offered by to Temple Beth El Senior Connections program to view and listen to the personal stories from courageous Wilcox County, Alabama freedom fighters. This event will happen via zoom from 2-3:30 on Mon. Jan, 18 and will include a 40 minute film followed by live Q & A with Author Maria Gitin and Joy Crawford-Washington, granddaughter of Civil Rights leaders from Pine Apple, Wilcox County AL.

Our staff and volunteers have been active partners on the Points of Light Conversations and have found them hugely informative for creating individual and organizational change. We invite you to explore the previous sessions our team has attended and to register for the next session.

Session One: Taking Action on Race and Equity

Session Two: Racial Healing:  Understanding Racial Identity, Systemic Racism, and How to Become a Racial Ally

Learn More About these Listening Sessions

As always please don’t hesitate to reach out to our Volunteer Mobilization team to learn about other ways you can take action and we move forward for 2021.

Visit our Volunteer Page to learn more.


Blog Post written by Volunteer Center Director of Communications Christine Loewe. Everyday she dedicates herself to promoting the endless possibilities for building new connections and making our moments more meaningful through volunteerism.

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