You arrive at a dead-end corner of a Bellevue neighborhood. Street parking is already getting packed, and you see a handful of event tents erected by the woods. When you open your car door, you hear the familiar yet slightly eerie sound of a speech being given by Martin Luther King Jr., echoing into the forest like a foreshadowing of why you are there. The sound of his voice has become empowering. As you get closer, you see several groups of people, and tubs of gloves and other supplies. You’re asked to sign in with your group, and then assigned to a coordinator so you can tackle the project ahead.
In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Earth Corps dedicated a Day of Service to give back to one of our local forests. When our UNITE volunteer group signed up for the event, we didn’t know what exactly to expect, other than we were going to be outside and probably getting dirty. More importantly, we knew that we would be making a difference.
Our guide walked us through a trail, as pictures and quotes from Dr. King led the way, getting us more amped up about what we were going to embark on. A short hike later, we arrived at our designated area. We were told that the trees inhabiting and making up that forest were planted long ago, after the land was taken over by colonizers, and those trees were now nearing the end of their life cycle. Our job that day was to plant trees that will eventually grow tall and replenish the canopy, which will make the forest a healthier habitat for the flora and fauna.
Earth Corps describes the event this way:
Healthy and thriving forests are vital to our community because they absorb and filter rain water, produce clean oxygen, provide living spaces for wildlife, and create a place for people to connect with the outdoors.
Everything was incredibly organized. Each group who arrived to volunteer was assigned a section that was roped off with colored tape. Within the designated sections were three different colors of flags, dotting the areas and directing us where to plant which kind of tree – which were also color-coded in their own separate buckets. We were given a quick demonstration of tool safety, planting directions, and how our work would impact the future of the forest, and then let go to do what we were there to do.
Within a short amount of time, we had planted a tree for every flag, and our guide expanded our zone and put out more and more flags. In all, there were over a hundred volunteers, and the group in its entirety planted hundreds of trees. We were treated to snacks and water, then invited to either take a break and continue working, or head out as needed.
I am hoping that Dr. King would have been proud of what was accomplished in his name, and I am excited that what we did in one day will be enjoyed by generations to come.