MLK Day celebrated with energetic service

Coatesville Area Senior High served as hub for multitude of activities

By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times

Brielle Bullock (from left); her mother Quiana Bullock; and Will Royal entertain an audience in the CASH gymnasium with their Zumba moves.

Not everyone could match the hip-swiveling moves of 18-year-old Will Royal, who participated in a Zumba dance-exercise session at Coatesville Area Senior High led enthusiastically by Adgrian McCain on Monday.

Some opted not to try and compete.  Like others, CASH Principal Richard J. Fisher watched appreciatively as Royal and his whirling companions took a break from the multitude of more sedentary Martin Luther King Day activities. The result: A visual demonstration of the energy that coursed through the school. “I’m not sure my knee could handle that,” Fisher explained.

Brielle Bullock, 2 ½, usually loves to dance, said her mother, Quiana Bullock. Perhaps intimidated by the crowds, Brielle decided that she preferred to keep the beat while being carried, giving her mother an extra workout. “She really loved the storytelling,” her mother said of their earlier schedule.

Jayonce McBall, 8, painstakingly works on a quilt destined for a senior citizen.

For the hundreds of people who showed up at the high school from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., organizers made sure no one had difficulty finding something to do.  Representatives from the Coatesville Area School District, Coatesville Youth Initiative, and the Coatesville Area NAACP organized the event, designed to improve mind and body and pay homage to Martin Luther King through a day of service in his honor.

In one room, service providers, such as Ches Penn Health Services and the Domestic Violence Center, handed out brochures and answered questions. In another, Dr. Tonya Thames Taylor, a West Chester University history professor, Coatesville school board member, and president of the Coatesville Area NAACP, led an insightful panel discussion on “Human Trafficking.”

A middle-school mock trial – Rumpelstiltzkin vs. Queen Malory – attracted an audience in the auditorium while other rooms hosted workers diligently creating quilts or care packages destined for area senior citizens.

Coatesville Police Officer Rodger Ollis applies a fresh coat of paint to a wall at the Coatesville Community Center.

Although the high school served as the central hub for the bulk of the day’s pursuits, some volunteers ventured outside. “It was cold, but it was worth it,” said Aesha McGibboney, a CASH assistant principal. She led a contingent of five students who contributed to a beautification effort at Palmer Park, where volunteers painted curbs and benches and picked up trash. Another group worked inside at the Coatesville Community Center, where Coatesville Police Officer Rodger Ollis supervised a painting crew.

Marie Hess, who heads the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, said   she divided her time between the high school and the community center.  “It was great seeing everyone work together,” she said.

Jack Laufer, Coatesville’s new police chief, said he also spent time at both venues.  He said he couldn’t have asked for a better day to get started than “a day of service for Martin Luther King” and was impressed with what he saw.  “I’m very glad to be a part of this community,” he said.

Teresa Powell, a school district administrator, said the response to the day – as well as the preparation for it – were equally gratifying. She said the district’s six elementary-school teachers each selected five students to receive awards. She said the 30 students were honored for “possessing the good character traits that Dr. King embodied.”

Samaria Turner, 15, delights in her job of handing out t-shirts to volunteers.

A little after noon, Michele Ollis, who helped organize a canned-goods collection to benefit the Chester County Food Bank, expressed thanks that 420 pounds of food had been packed for delivery. Two hours later, she shook her head in delighted disbelief. “Eight hundred and twenty pounds!” she exclaimed.

Organizers said the day was scheduled to complement Martin Luther King Jr.’s goal of fostering  “…a nation of freedom and justice for all, and [where] all citizens to live up to the purpose and potential of America by applying the principles of nonviolence to make this country a better place to live— creating the Beloved Community.”

Denise Ray, principal at Scott Middle School, said she was particularly proud of the quilt-making initiative, which started as an after-school project at the school. Not surprisingly, she said the Coatesville Senior Center has embraced the results. “What’s not love about something so beautiful to keep you warm?” she asked, pointing to one of the finished products.

Brooke Hanson, 14, of South Brandywine Middle School, gets ready to play Queen Malory in the mock trial.

As Ray watched, 8-year-old Jayonce McBall from Caln Elementary demonstrated her newly-acquired hand-sewing skills, working on a section of one of four quilts in progress.

“What a great experience,” Ray enthused, echoing sentiments that were widely shared about the experience.

Asked what she would say to those who didn’t show up, Autumn Smith, a 17-year-old CASH student, didn’t hesitate: “You’re missing out.”


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