Honoring MLK Day across three states



Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day from all of us at Northwest Youth Corps!

While the daily work of Northwest Youth Corps honors the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with its focus on service, community, and future generations, this federal holiday (the only one dedicated as a National Day of Service) is a time for people across the country to step up to help build more equitable communities everywhere. 

This past week, Northwest Youth Corps staff dedicated time to reflect on the values that Rev. Dr. MLK Jr. championed and took part in community service work around our three office locations in Eugene, Tacoma, and Boise. A huge thanks to all organizers and participants of our MLK day service projects!

At our Idaho office, staff members removed old wire caging and reinstalling new wire caging around trees along the Boise Greenbelt in partnership with Boise Parks and Rec. Once trees have died, uprooted, or outgrown their cages, the wire needs to be removed before it becomes a hazard or pollutant to the Boise River. Properly-fitted cages protect healthy trees from beaver damage, ensuring that important riparian habitat has the shade, soil stabilization, and productive plant life that it needs.

Idaho office staff members removing old wire caging and reinstalling new wire caging around trees along the Boise Greenbelt in partnership with Boise Parks and Recreation.

Northwest Youth Corps’ Washington state office volunteered with Pierce Conservation District at Whittier Park. Some volunteers removed non-native blackberry, which is prone to choking out all other plants and establishing a monoculture, while others focused on removing weeds around recently planted trees, shrubs, and grasses. Our staff also helped to mulch sections of walking trail that had become muddy. This routine maintenance of the park helps with the natural filtration of the spring and bog that eventually flows in to the Salish Sea, which ultimately supports clean waterways and important natural habitats.

Washington office volunteers mulching plants with Pierce Conservation District at Whittier Park.

At our headquarters in Eugene, Oregon, Northwest Youth Corps staff lent a hand at the Eastgate Woodlands and Whilamut Natural Area by removing invasive vegetation, especially English Ivy, and protecting the riparian forest. This volunteer work supports the park’s efforts to save trees, protect water quality, and improve habitat while maintaining a popular recreation site.

Eugene office volunteers removing English Ivy in Eastgate Woodlands with Willamalane Parks and Recreation District.

Revisiting his powerful message, we can see that Rev. Dr. MLK called on us to step beyond acts of service, and to challenge and question the norms we live in, to disrupt the injustices we witness, and to revolutionize our values. As we consider how outdoor recreation and conservation has been built for and dominated by whiteness and wealth, let us be “more devoted to justice than order”, and let us stand together in this challenge.

In closing, we offer a few of his words for reflection this week (edited for gender inclusion):

“The ultimate measure of a [person] is not where [they] stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where [they] stand at times of challenge and controversy.” (Strength to Love, 1963)

“An individual has not started living until [they] can rise above the narrow confines of [their] individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” (Birth of a New Age, 1956)

“It is not enough to say we must not wage war.  It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace.” (From a speech in California, 1967)

by Michaela Fishback