FORT WORTH -- Everybody can serve.
These simple words were the heart of Martin Luther King Jr.'s final sermon. The civil rights leader's words and example inspired people into action in the 1960s and continue to do so today.
Hundreds of volunteers are expected to participate today in the Tarrant Area Community of Churches' third annual MLK Day of Service.
"It's a day to be in the community with other people -- to do something outside the norm that reminds us that we need each other," said the Rev. Melinda Veatch, executive director of Tarrant Area Community of Churches.
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Participants will gather at 8:30 a.m. at Baker Chapel A.M.E. Church, 1050 E. Humbolt St. in Fort Worth. After prayer, they will go to volunteer sites. Later, they will have lunch at Broadway Baptist Church, 305 W. Broadway Ave., and talk about their experiences.
In 2011, Veatch said, there were about 12 volunteer work sites and 150 participants. In 2012, the event grew to 20 sites with about 300 people turning out.
This year, there will be 30 volunteer sites offering opportunities for people of all ages to help others, Veatch said. Among participating sites are the Community Food Bank, Feed by Grace, I.M. Terrell Elementary School, churches including Broadway Baptist and First Methodist, the Humane Society of North Texas and the Fort Worth school district. Organizers are hoping for 400 to 500 volunteers this year.
"Everyone can be great because everyone can serve," Veatch said, quoting from King's sermon "The Drum Major Instinct" delivered on Feb. 4, 1968, at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
He went on: "You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. ... You only need a heart full of grace."
Steve Harding, a retired executive from Bell Helicopter, said he plans to work at the Community Food Bank in Fort Worth. "It's great to hear and see other people of different faiths and denominations coming together to help others in the community," he said.
Neale Mansfield, executive director of Feed by Grace, said volunteers will create permanent pathways at the organization's Project Growth, a community garden and composting project aimed at creating work for the homeless.
"They will be working elbow to elbow alongside homeless folks," Mansfield said.
Diane Smith, 817-390-7675