The day offered activities at the gym including making care bags for the homeless, making scarves and mittens, creating cards for nursing home residents and a workshop on civil conversation.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Instead of a day off, more than 200 Northern Berkshire residents heeded the call Monday and took part in different community service projects throughout the region that culminated in the presentation of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Peacemaker Award.
This year's awardee is Adams Selectman James "Jim" Bush, whose name will join his 26 predecessors on the plaque.
"It has been my personal mission to put my efforts into bettering the community and I am honored to receive this award," Bush said during the ceremony at Massachusetts College of Arts' Venable Gym. "I look forward to serving our community to the best of my ability with others who put their hearts and souls into helping others throughout our community."
After retiring from Specialty Minerals, Bush decided to commit his time to his community and after successfully running for selectman in 2018 has become involved in a long list of community initiatives and organizations.
"I realize at my age there are two kinds of people in the world: There are doers and those who don't and Jim is a doer," said Mike Cutler, a friend of Bush. "He is all over the place and involved with everything. He has done wonderful things for the town of Adams ... people like to follow positive people and Jim is one."
Wendy Penner, NBCC director of prevention and recovery said Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, said the group has been trying to build a stronger connection in Adams and has held monthly lunches in the Mother Town to strengthen relationships. This is where she met Bush.
"Whenever I run into him and ask what is going on, he always tells me some great thing that he is doing," Penner said. "Fighting the day-to-day injustices is one way to embody the work of Martin Luther King but the other way is to be a force of good in your community."
The day started early and participants had the choice of staying onsite in the gym to make scarves, mittens, blankets for those in need among other activities.
Others were dispatched throughout the city and to help winterize homes, collect donations, and help with tasks for organizations such as the Goodwill, Northern Berkshire Family YMCA, the Youth Center at Cheshire School, Habitat for Humanity, and First Congregational Church.
"It is always a pleasure to see you guys out there doing the things that Dr. King would tell you to do," Martin Luther King Jr. Day Committee Chairman Alex Daugherty said. "I look at you today and can say you stepped it up."
Participants returned to the Venable Gym around noon for lunch and to hear from other speakers. The day was especially cold and MCLA President James Birge said the group's commitment even on a frigid day is what holds the community together.
"The fabric that keeps community together ... is this sense of belonging and this sense of commitment to one another as we express it through service," Birge said. "So today ... you made North Adams and the region a little better and I want to thank you especially when it would have been easier to stay inside and warm."
Mayor Thomas Bernard said there is still work to be done to carry on King's message.
"Today we join with people across the country in the legacy and memory of Dr. King and everybody he has inspired though his work," he said. "The call to action that we are challenged to answer everyday and as we all know ... there is still work that remains and we continue to struggle with the same injustice and the same bigotry and hatred."
State Sen. Adam Hinds echoed this sentiment.
"It is what we all do and what we all commit to everyday ... stand up when we see something wrong and to make sure we are fighting for equality," Hinds said. "We need to make sure we are standing up against injustice."
State Rep. John Barrett III charged the young people in the room to continue King's work.
He thought back to 2017 when he got the opportunity to meet Congressman John Lewis who delivered the MCLA commencement speech that year.
"He is one of the most amazing men I have met in my entire life and ... he talked about the sacrifices that were made in his generation," he said. "When you stop and think about it he is the last living person who spoke in 1963 ... he had an important message at the commencement he said when you see injustice and you see things that should not be happening get in the way."
Evan Goodermote performed slam poetry and the Drury Jazz Trio played a selection.
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