Volunteers honor King by painting walls
BY STEVE METSCH email@example.com January 16, 2012 8:14PM
Ashley Scott, 23, and other Lewis University students help paint the SouthSTAR Services facility in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity Chicago South Suburbs in honor of Martin Luther King Day in Chicago Heights, Illinois, Monday, January, 16, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 18, 2012 8:07AM
Clyde Wilson thinks the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., would have been impressed Monday had he been in Chicago Heights.
“He’d be overwhelmed as we have a cross section of young people doing something in his memory,” Wilson said. “Most of all, he’d be impressed that people are coming together to make this world a better place.”
Wilson, 69, of Park Forest, was among about 60 volunteers who spent Martin Luther King Day painting walls at SouthSTAR Services, 1005 West End Ave., a center for the developmentally disabled.
Wilson has a personal memory of Dr. King that dates back 46 years.
“In 1966, when Dr. King marched from Memphis to Jackson, Miss., I was a senior at Jackson State University and I had the opportunity to shake Dr. King’s hand. Little did I know that he would become who he is today. He was large in 1966, but not like (he was) later on,” Wilson said.
Most of Monday’s painters came from Habitat for Humanity Chicago South Suburbs, Chicago Southland YouthBuild, Aunt Martha’s and Lewis University. Not Wilson.
“I came out here on my own. This is an excellent way to give back and to keep the legacy of Dr. King alive,” Wilson said.
“But I’m really enthusiastic about the number of young people here doing this. It’s great to be here. I’m retired with nothing else to do, but I can’t find anything else better to do today than this,” Wilson said.
He thinks today’s young people could have a better grasp of King’s legacy.
“I’d like to see more parents and community service organizations doing things in memory of Dr. King. Everything African-Americans share today is in part directly related to the efforts of Dr. King. He did things he didn’t have to do. You find very few people today willing to face death like he did.
“And it wasn’t for just one race of people. Dr. King’s efforts were universal in nature. As I was telling some young people at my church Sunday, had Dr. King been of the Catholic faith, he may be a saint by now for what he did,” Wilson said.
Wilson was painting walls in the locker room, carefully using a brush to spread gleaming white paint over walls that had been a dingy shade of beige.
Xavier Coats, 23, of Calumet City, was busy painting another wall. He attends Chicago Southland YouthBuid, a vocational school.
“I’m here to help out. Dr. King was all about helping the community, so I figured that’s what I should do,” Coats said.
SouthSTAR Services helps about 450 developmentally disabled people every year, said CEO Dan Strick. And it had been at least 10 years since anyone has painted walls there, he said.
“Dr. King was about community development, and community services. This is one more example of it,” Strick said.
David Tracy, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Chicago South Suburbs, came ready wearing a paint-speckled pair of pants.
“Why paint? Why not? It’s a great concept, giving back, whether it’s a holiday or a Saturday or any day. That’s what volunteering is about,” Tracy said. “On King Day it’s become part of the theme to give back rather than take the day off. It’s great to help another non-profit.”
Volunteers used painted donated by the Valspar Corp.
Cheryl Cherny, director of development for SouthSTAR Services, called the volunteer painters “wonderful.”
A distinctive green star design on one wall was covered with white paint by volunteers using rollers on the cinder block that had quite a thirst for paint.
“We need to refresh our logo. We need to brand and let the community know who we are. We’ve been here 60 years, and a lot of people don’t know who we are,” Cherny said. “We plan to bring out our history. We have pictures from our whole history that will be on the walls.”
Jeffrey Matlock, 32, who lives in a SouthSTAR Services group home in Park Forest, is a longtime client. He took time to shake hands with many volunteers, thanking each for their hard work.
“Oh, it’s pretty good,” Matlock said of the turnout. He enjoys putting together window latches when he’s working at SouthSTAR Services.
Tracy thinks more people should spend the holiday helping others.
“It’s about helping those who need help,” Tracy said. “It’s such a simple thing.”