Nestled just off the Miami Foley Road in Nehalem Monday, the peaceful Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday was buzzing with the sound of service.
By Jordan Wolfe
Dozens of volunteers swarmed the three-story unfinished house of Steve Ross, musician and beloved karaoke DJ.
“It’s so healing,” Janice Ross, Steve’s mother and sometimes karaoke partner, said. “We’re so fortunate.”
Steve was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and given less than a year to live.
While he fights the disease, his dream home sits unfinished – a three-story work of art dreamed up from Steve’s mind.
“He did it all himself,” Janice said, “For a musician, it’s pretty good.”
Friends, neighbors and strangers banded together in a partnership between Habitat for Humanity’s Ramps & Rails program and the Oregon Coast Love Coalition (OCLC) to visit three homes throughout Tillamook County Monday to build and assist. The group that gathered at the Rosses had one mission for the day: install 1,600 square feet of drywall on the ceiling.
Teams dispersed throughout the various rooms. One bedroom contained a team with Landon Clappé, a 1983 NKN grad, retired Army veteran and a family friend of the Rosses.
“I love them, they’re great,” Clappé said as he measured a piece of drywall, “They’re great people who give a lot to the community and always have a smile on.”
He added the holiday presented the perfect opportunity to get involved.
“It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day – it’s service,” Clappé said, “Everyone likes to volunteer.”
That service in memory of King’s legacy was something present to OCLC founder LaNicia Williams moved to the coast September 2014.
“This was the first place I ever lived that didn’t celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day,” she said.
The result was the creation of OCLC and a series of events in 2017 to honor the Civil Rights hero.
“For me, it was filling a void,” Williams said.
For year two of OCLC’s events to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Williams organized three days of events to promote service, unity and love.
“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic,” Williams said, reciting a famous MLK quote which inspired the theme for year two: The Power of Love. “Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”
Saturday, OCLC hosted a showing of the documentary “No Joke!” at Nehalem Bay United Methodist Church. The film featured three men of different faiths who created a strong, lasting bond despite their different beliefs. Following, the group held a discussion.
Sunday, in the cozily lit Hoffman Center for the Arts in Manzanita, OCLC produced “Unsung Heroes: Their Lives, Their Stories,” an evening of community members embodying individuals from the Civil Rights movement, including local teacher Mary McGuinness reading the story of Ruby Bridges, one of her heroes and the first African-American child to desegregate an all-white school in Louisiana; Manzanita police officer Mike Sims told the story and shared quotes from Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to the United States Congress – and whom reminded Sims of his own grandmother and John Coopersmith of Nehalem told the story of Andrew Goodman, a young social activist who was slain by members of the Ku Klux Klan for his involvement in the Civil Rights movement.
“I don’t recall in my 40 years any celebrations of Martin Luther King Jr.,” Coopersmith said at the event’s conclusion, “He was one of the finest minds ever produced. I’d like to thank LaNicia Williams for bringing Martin Luther King Jr. Day to Tillamook County.”