AUGUSTA — “What are you doing for others?”

That, according to Martin Luther King Jr., is among life’s most persistent and urgent questions. And on Monday at the Augusta Community Warming Center, friends Caroline Karnes and Lila Solomon tried to give their children a way to respond to that question.

Solomon’s kids, 7-year-old Eleanor Gagne and 4-year-old Ori Gagne, and Karnes’ children, 6-year-old Wylie and 5-year-old Emma, can say they pitched in at the MLK Jr. Day of Service, organized by Maine Conservation Corps at the Augusta Community Warming Center. They spent the day tagging winter hats with labels and sorting items donated to help people in need.

For both moms, the day was as much about what their children can learn as it was about what they could do on a Monday off from school.

“We thought this was a good way for them to help out and not just spend another day inside, and see something a little more concrete for MLK Jr. Day,” reflecting King’s advocacy for serving others, Karnes said. “Later, when we get home, I plan to go through some books with them, about race, to help them understand what (King) was doing.”

Wylie and Eleanor both piped up to say they were already familiar with King’s most famous speech, his anti-discrimination declaration of “I Have a Dream.”

As they sorted and tagged warm winter hats that others had donated, which will in turn be donated to people in need, Karnes explained, to the table of children, King’s dream was that when his children grew up, they would live in a world where everyone, regardless of the color of their skin, would be treated equally and with respect.

Solomon said her family talked about King and his significance and the need to serve others before coming to the warming center. She said the event was also a chance to help her kids understand there are others less privileged than them.

More than a dozen Americorps workers and volunteers were on hand Monday, sorting clothing, food and other items donated at several area businesses in the days leading up to the Day of Service. Most of the donated clothing will go to clients of Bridging the Gap programs including the Addie’s Attic clothing bank, Everyday Basics Essentials pantry, and the warming center.

Volunteers at the Day of Service included clients of the warming center, according to Deidrah Stanchfield, program coordinator of environmental stewards for Americorps’ Maine Conservation Corps. Members who participate in the Maine Conservation Corps usually do conservation projects, in 45-week, 1,700 service hour assignments. Stanchfield, a former director of the warming center, said the Day of Service project gives the Corps members more of an opportunity to directly help people in need, working alongside volunteers in the community.

Corps members picked up boxes of donated goods from several area businesses and brought them to the warming center to be sorted by other volunteers and, eventually, given away to anyone who needs them.

Pam Davis Green, 60, of Wayne, volunteered sorting clothing Monday morning. She said she was looking for a way to participate in the Day of Service, and since she is also a former participant in Maine Conservation Corps, having served in it in 2008 doing field work and again in 2011 as an environmental educator, found volunteering at the warming center with current Corps members to be a good fit.

“I love this group and I love the idea of serving the community and these people are here, on the ground, making things happen,” Green said of why she chose to volunteer in the project.

She said a Day of Service is in line with the ideals King stood for. Some of the volunteers helping were warming center clients.

Stanchfield said clients volunteer regularly at the center, folding and organizing donated clothes and helping with other tasks. One volunteer who helped out Monday, Judy Colomy, regularly spends more than 40 hours a week volunteering there, Stanchfield said. Another warming center client, who did not want to be identified, used lumber donated by LaPointe Lumber to build a wooden cart that will be used to help move the donated clothing around the building, at 9 Pleasant St., where the warming center is located.

Because the warming center already has enough winter hats for its clients, organizers planned to donate the excess hats they have to other organizations, so the hats can be donated to people who need them.

Sarah Miller, executive director of Bridging the Gap, said the hats would be given away with tags, which were put on by volunteers Monday, which say “With Love from Bridging the Gap.”

This was the fourth year for the local Day of Service.

Stanchfield said there seemed to be more kids at this year’s event, which she said is a good thing.

Last year the event collected more than 88 bags and boxes, which held items including 10 pairs of winter boots, 96 winter coats, 564 individually wrapped snacks, eight pounds of coffee, two sleeping bags, 18 blankets, 344 hats, mittens, socks and scarves, and over 50 bags of clothing.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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