Students volunteer at MLK Service Project

Decatur sophomores pick up sticks and leaves on McLean Street on Monday morning for the MLK Service Project.

Decatur sophomores pick up sticks and leaves on McLean Street on Monday morning for the MLK Service Project.

The non-profit organization Decatur Preservation Alliance (DPA) provides Decatur residents with an opportunity to serve the community. Among the volunteers are high school students from National Honor Society (NHS) and Key Club.

The DPA coordinates with the Decatur community to provide service for low-income senior citizens through the Martin Luther King Jr. Service Project. The volunteers work with homeowners to do home repairs and yard work during three-hour shifts.

Sophomore Nick Katinsky is volunteering for his fifth year in a row.

“It’s just a nice way to spend MLK with your friends and still do something charitable for the Decatur community,” Katinsky said.

Katinsky volunteered with seven other Decatur students, many of whom are his friends.

“I can meet and hang out with my friends but also get something productive done together and really help those around the community,” Katinsky said. “It’s also nice to get to know new neighbors this way.”

Chairman Paul Mitchell has organized the MLK Service Project for six years and “loves doing it.”

“Before being the chairman I volunteered for the DPA every year,” Mitchell said. “I had a great sense of accomplishment after helping the homeowners for the first time and so I’ve just stuck with ever since.”

This year the DPA received over 1,000 volunteers, and while they were concerned about numbers, they closed all of the projects.

“We have this event because we want to give the residents the ability to stay in their homes for as long as possible,” Mitchell said. “We want to keep a roof over their head and this is the best way to do it.”

For Mitchell, the real sense of accomplishment comes from the gratitude of the homeowners.

Katinsky talked with the homeowner before starting his yard work. This interaction adds to his experience and makes it all worthwhile.

“One year a lady hugged me and thanked me for fixing her roof,” Mitchell said. “She told me she had never been as warm in her home because there was always something wrong with her roof.”

Mitchell realizes that these interactions are what keep people interested in volunteering.

“The volunteers get to know the homeowners and that sense of accomplishment will hopefully make them want to do it again,” Mitchell said.

Katinsky is one of those volunteers.

“I hope to keep volunteering for the MLK service project because it allows me to get to know people that I normally wouldn’t have known, much less have been willing to help,” Katinsky said.

The 1,288 tools, 1,000 Decatur volunteers and 49 house captains made this year’s MLK Service Project a success.