Groups observe MLK Day cleanup schools, homes in MLK project

Advocate staff photo by ARTHUR D. LAUCK -- Tamiko Garrison, left, and Malvin Jones paint a home on Delaware Street on Monday, among the 1,350 volunteers sprucing up the 70805 ZIP code area.
Advocate staff photo by ARTHUR D. LAUCK -- Tamiko Garrison, left, and Malvin Jones paint a home on Delaware Street on Monday, among the 1,350 volunteers sprucing up the 70805 ZIP code area.

1,350 volunteers serve others

Kimberley Bynum’s house on Delaware Street had been in dire need of a face-lift for the better part of a decade.

Given her limited resources, Bynum, 48, said she welcomed the two dozen volunteers who spent Martin Luther King Jr. Day painting her home and sprucing up her yard.

“All I can say is, thank the Lord,” Bynum said. “I’m just glad they wanted to volunteer their time on a day when they could be watching the (presidential) inauguration.”

Hundreds of volunteers fanned out across the 70805 ZIP code Monday, cleaning schools and painting homes in a community beautification project organized by the Baton Rouge Delta Alumnae chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. The second annual MLK Day of Service was bolstered by a partnership with city-parish officials and the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination project, a crime-fighting initiative targeting the same blighted neighborhoods.

“We’re living the dream by having all different types of organizations, young and old, coming together,” said Doris G. Brown, the sorority’s local chapter president.

At least 1,350 people — community leaders, businesspeople, church congregations and veterans — participated in the cleanup, Brown said. The volunteers visited six schools and three homes.

“They came here with a great spirit,” Brown said. “I think that’s a testimony to Dr. King’s legacy about a day on instead of a day off. We had volunteers here at 5 o’clock this morning.”

BRAVE has targeted the 70805 ZIP code because the area accounts for a disproportionate amount of the city’s violent crime.

The area is bounded by Airline Highway to the north and east, Choctaw Drive to the south and the Mississippi River to the west.

BRAVE officials said Monday they hoped to raise awareness about their crime-fighting project, and also welcomed an opportunity to recognize King’s efforts to reduce violence.

“Some of the aspects are different from those during his time, but some are the same, and we’re focusing on the no-violence component,” BRAVE director Herbert “Tweety” Anny said. “We’re trying to reduce the violence as much as possible in 70805.”

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III promised volunteers he would continue working hard to reduce the “senseless violence” and killings plaguing the community, as well as the incarceration rate.

“It’s all about lives,” Moore said, addressing volunteers at the Living Faith Christian Center, which served as the cleanup’s headquarters. “Everybody’s important to us.”

Georgia Comena took her three grandchildren to the cleanup, including Deon Jackson, 14, who said he would rather help than sit at home all day. “We think it’s important to get the kids involved,” Comena said, “and let them know how much of a struggle it was during that time.”

At Howell Park Elementary, volunteers picked up trash from the schoolyard and planted a flower bed. On nearby Charles Street, a team painted the home of Mosella Wright Honore and removed debris from her back yard.

Wright Honore, 63, said the exterior of the home had been stained by mildew before it was washed and painted.

“It was a mess” she said. “I’m so excited.”

Volunteer Toja Riley said officials with the city-parish Office of Community Development had already made significant repairs inside the Charles Street home and prepared it for Monday’s painting.

“Really it’s a beautification of the home,” Riley said. “It’s amazing what can happen when people come together for a common cause and what they can accomplish.”

City Year Baton Rouge also organized a day of service Monday to commemorate King, mobilizing more than 300 volunteers and about 150 area students for a youth summit at Capitol Middle School. The students learned about the concepts of nonviolence, humanity and community service before planting trees and painting murals.