In honor of Dr. King, Board member Beth Damsgaard-Rodriguez helped organize a special interfaith service day at Room at the Inn on January 16.
“It was a wonderful gathering of interfaith volunteers with Teen Leaders from the Monsanto Family YMCA, members of The Center for Indian Cultural Education – Bal Vihar of St. Louis, and youth representing at least four faith groups — Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Christian — were present,” explains Beth. “Since Room at the Inn has an interfaith approach to social justice ministry, it seemed like a perfect place to serve on Martin Luther King Day.”
The day began with a presentation, followed by several discussions that explored what each faith teaches about serving, judging a person by their content of character and social justice.
“Room at the Inn has a multi-level approach to the complex issue of homelessness which is necessary for someone to become self-reliant again,” says Beth. “We talked about the importance of serving ‘our neighbors’ in St. Louis County and not just in the city. Our ‘neighbor in need’ can literally be right next door and we may not even know it.”
Following the discussion, Site Volunteer Coordinator Melanie Matthew organized the volunteers into small groups for the service portion of the day. The tasks included cleaning mattresses, organizing toys and creating care packages for new clients.
The day concluded with another discussion about what it means to serve our neighbors and how it relates to Dr. King’s dream of equality. Beth feels it is important to keep exploring the interfaith component of that message.
“Dr. King said, ‘anyone can be great because everyone can serve.’ We are all neighbors and we have to work together to make society better for all,” Beth says. “We have to expose ourselves to other faiths, other cultures and our neighbors to make Dr. King’s dream a reality. We still have a long way to go, which is why we were so glad to be able to spend a day in service at Room at the Inn.”