Cover Story

MLK Service Project Has a UTS Flavor

One of the MLK crews hard at work.

Since 2003, the MLK Service Project has provided free house maintenance and yardwork for some of Decatur's neediest senior homeowners. Planned year round, but held over the three-day MLK holiday weekend, this project involves hundreds of volunteers and thousands of dollars in donations, both corporate and private.

The project chairman is Paul Mitchell (Data Architect, Enterprise Applications) and he has been with the project since its inception. UTSers Bill Choate and Norman Butler (both from Infrastructure) are also very involved. Out of twenty key leadership positions for the project, three came from one division in UTS.

MLK Service Project logoThis year, the MLK Service Project had 1,296 volunteers who worked more than three days on 22 homes. Volunteers also performed yardwork on 50 homes. They removed seven dumpsters (30-40 cubic yards each) full of trash and filled 2,300 four-foot-tall lawn bags with lawn debris. They rented 923 tools (hammers, rakes, shovels and ladders) and rented a tool truck to manage the load. The volunteers' time was valued at around $160,000 for the weekend.

The project employed a "Tool Czarina" to manage the tools and a Materials Coordinator, who managed five full-time people that stayed at Lowe's all three days and took orders, which were then transported to the houses.  Although Lowe's gives a large discount on all materials used for the project, organizers still spent over $10,000 on these items alone.

The event is funded annually by private donations and foundations. Food to feed the workers was donated by Publix, Chick-fil-A, and the Girl Scouts, as well as the volunteers themselves. At the end of the event (Monday night), the project organizers held a BBQ for the homeowners and volunteers.

A core team does the planning throughout the year end the project utilizes 58 people in leadership roles, including house and yard captains. For the repair projects, Decatur is divided into three zones, each run by a zone coordinator.

Photo of Paul Mitchell on CBSNorman was a house captain last year and this year worked on a team doing repairs on several smaller houses. Bill, his wife (an Emory nurse), her sister and husband, and another friend were all house captains this year. They worked on one of the toughest houses, which required a professional to evaluate that a heating system was non-functional. The evaluating company installed a new furnace for free.

The Atlanta CBS affiliate broadcasted an informative program on the effort this year, which you can see here, including Paul answering a few questions.

If you would like to participate in this wonderful project, contact Paul to get involved or visit the website: