Human Relations Council continues annual drive-thru resource fair during MLK holiday weekend

Published 12:05 am Sunday, January 16, 2022

By Natalie Anderson

SALISBURY — Human Relations Council members say the annual tradition of giving to the community is a tribute to the message Martin Luther King Jr. had for all Americans.

The theme of this year’s celebration is “Keep Moving Forward: United for Service, Peace and Equity.”

“When you look at the bigger picture and you understand what Dr. Martin Luther King stood for, and the fact he encouraged us to be of service to the people,” said Human Relations Council Chair Rev. Dee Ellison. “Our community is going through a lot of things. So we feel that it’s important enough that we continue the tradition of service, of service to this community.”

The Salisbury-Rowan Human Relations Council on Saturday hosted a community resource fair in honor of the MLK holiday weekend. It was a drive-thru event for the second consecutive year because of the pandemic. Members of the community were invited to stop by the Salisbury Civic Center on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue South to pick up one of about 300 bags filled with information on community resources, school supplies, personal protective equipment such as masks and hand sanitizer from Novant Health and $15 gift cards to Food Lion, which sponsored the event. Bags also contained information related to utility assistance programs, information from the Salisbury Fire Department and personal care products such as deodorant, mouthwash, cooling towels and body lotion.

Ellison said the idea was to include a variety of resources so that there’s something for every member of a family. Any remaining bags can be shared at future events, but “nothing goes to waste,” she said.

Anne Little, staff liaison for the Human Relations Council, said in “normal years,” a parade would end at the Salisbury Civic Center where members of the community could get information face-to-face from a variety of organizations. She praised the council’s work to continue these efforts and added that some of the resources are especially beneficial to those preparing for the winter storm this weekend.

“I just applaud them for their foresight, for their creativity and insistence that there was a way to continue to serve the community even in this COVID environment,” Little said. “And they’ve done it for two years straight.”

Little added that city staff joined the council Friday to help fill the bags. Additionally, the council is donating breakfast meals to Meals on Wheels.

“I don’t think they have any idea of their reach,” Little said.

Gemale Black, president of the Salisbury-Rowan NAACP chapter, said it was a blessing to be able to continue giving, especially at a difficult time for so many.

“Times are hard,” Black said. “It’s good to see the smiling faces and the community come, all walks of life, Black, white, whatever their race may be.”

Black added that the community must “press on” and remember the legacy left behind by King and “carry out the dream.”

Dora Wood, a former Human Relations Council member, was one of the drive-thru recipients Saturday. Wood said she stops by the event each year and added that it “lets the community know we’re keeping (King’s) dream and helping all people out in the community.”

The city planned to host a Share the Warmth coat drive at Kelsey Scott Park on Monday in celebration of Community Day of Service and the holiday, but it has been postponed due to the anticipated winter storm.

But the Human Relations Council’s virtual program, beginning at 2 p.m., is still on. The program can be viewed via the city’s Facebook page or via WSRG-TV. The guest speaker is Deborah Maxwell, the newly elected president of the North Carolina NAACP and the first woman to serve such a position.

On Sunday, Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church will host its 45th annual celebration of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, though the ceremony will be held virtually on the church’s Facebook page at 3 p.m. The church’s Facebook can be found by visiting Dr. Tony Watlington, superintendent of Rowan-Salisbury Schools, will be the guest speaker, with Rev. Nilous Avery II as host pastor. The church will also host its 2022 Humanitarian Service awards ceremony.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at or call her at 704-797-4246.

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