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In New London, a softer side to celebrating King’s legacy

New London — A few blocks away and hours before, hundreds of people marched in the city's streets, speakers referenced “dark days ahead" under a new president and local activists spoke about ways to promote justice in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

But in the Hygienic Art Gallery Monday, a softer side of King’s example was on display. Volunteers of an AmeriCorps program that runs science and engineering activities in New London schools, plus a few people just looking for a way to volunteer on the holiday, milled around the gallery, making cards for hospital patients and veterans and tying yards of fleece into blankets bound for a city homeless shelter.

“I wanted to be hands-on,” said Michelle Allen, who lives in New London. Allen said she has made a point of raising money and collecting food for food drives around Martin Luther King Jr. Day over the past 20 years in the city, and took the opportunity to join about a dozen other people in the gallery Monday.

“I didn’t want to stay home,” she said.

AmeriCorps members who work in New London schools through the New England Science & Sailing STEM Education Ambassador program helped organize the day of blanket and card-making, part of the national AmeriCorps day of service that the organization takes part in every year.

There were no signs, no boycotts, no speeches or sermons.

But at the end of the afternoon there would be more than a dozen blankets and cards, which the people gathered in the gallery hoped would at least bring a smile to someone who could use it.

Allen sat at a seat in the gallery writing "‘Be my Valentine" on a card she had decorated. Beside her sat 22-year-old Sabrina Davis, who came from Willimantic to volunteer wherever she could find other people taking advantage of the holiday.

Davis said she hopes to join an AmeriCorps program, and to emulate King in her own life.

“I just aspire to help the world the best I can,” she said.

Davis said she has spent time as a patient in hospitals and appreciated any sign of support from the outside world.

“It’s nice to know that people are thinking of you, and they care,” she said.

The blankets, made with fabric bought with donated funds, will go to New London’s Homeless Hospitality Center.

Lacey Arndt, of Norwich, said she brought her young daughters to New London to volunteer as a family.

"Just to spread kindness in our world," she said.



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