U.S. SEN. ANGUS KING of Brunswick talks with Carl Brown of Bath on Monday while clearing tables at the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program’s soup kitchen.

U.S. SEN. ANGUS KING of Brunswick talks with Carl Brown of Bath on Monday while clearing tables at the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program’s soup kitchen.

BRUNSWICK

As the tables filled at the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Center’s dining hall on Monday morning — chicken a la king was on the menu — a familiar face appeared to clear their dishes after eating the warm meal.

With name tag that just said “Angus” and a “busser” tag attached to his red apron, U.S. Sen. Angus King of Brunswick moved through the room looking for dinnerware ready to be cleared. Of course, he spent a little more time talking to patrons who took the opportunity to bend his ear for a couple minutes.

U.S. SEN. ANGUS KING OF BRUNSWICK speaks with Katherine Heuer, a member of the homeless community, while volunteering at Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program’s soup kitchen on Monday in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

U.S. SEN. ANGUS KING OF BRUNSWICK speaks with Katherine Heuer, a member of the homeless community, while volunteering at Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program’s soup kitchen on Monday in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The soup kitchen was the first stop for King, who celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day by participating in community service events. He also visited the Gathering Place next door, a nonprofit day shelter. It was his way to celebrate and honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who has inspired millions in America and across the globe to give back and help others.

“Martin Luther King Day is, across the country, a day of service and it made sense to me to start in my hometown. I mean I live two blocks from here,” King said Monday. “This is an amazing operation. It’s mostly volunteers and they do this every single day.”

Monday afternoon he was headed to Portland to meet with kids involved in the Seeds of Peace Camp, an effort to bring people together around the world. He was also headed to the 37th annual Martin Luther King Dinner in Portland.

King’s first job out of law school was with Pine Tree Legal Assistance in Skowhegan, a law office for low-income people. He’d meet with people with bills or rent they couldn’t pay. Folks would visit his office “with problems that were this big,” King said, holding his arms out three feet.

“Their legal problem was six inches of that three feet … and I could deal with part of it but I couldn’t deal with all of it,” he said. “Politics, if you think about it, is a way to deal with all of it.”

King found politics was a way of focusing on the whole person and what we can do as a society to look after one another.

“To me, politics, I mean it sounds corny, it should be public service,” he said, “to try to help people have a better chance in life.”

After finishing her meal, Katherine Heuer thanked King for his work. The homeless community needs him, she said.

“I am a homeless person,” Heuer said, which stems from an illness in her case. “I was in the Tedford Shelter for almost five months.”

She argued that Tedford Housing doesn’t have enough resources and needs more case workers. Another challenge is that even with a housing voucher, there isn’t enough housing for those who need it.

Fortunately, she is now staying with her church family.

“We’ve gotten away from that,” Heuer said. “Who wants to open their door to a homeless person?”

One of the important things as a senator, King said, is to be reminded of what happens on the ground.

“In Washington, you deal with a budget for the Department of Agriculture that has a little line in it for supporting food distribution programs,” he said. “This is it. It takes it from the abstract to what happens in real people’s lives.

“You could see in this room there were a range of people,” King added. “There were some people who were impaired in some way, but there were others who were just in a bad patch in their life, who were just like you and I, except for a little luck.”

That is why places like MCHPP are so important, he said.

“I consider what I’m doing now an extension of bussing tables at Mid Coast Hunger Prevention,” King said.

There were approximately 40 volunteers working within MCHPP on Monday morning alone.

“Our volunteers are our lifeline,” MCHPP Executive Director Karen Parker said. “We can always use volunteers.”

She said clients — many of whom have no influence and have no voice — appreciate King’s visits.

“He is their voice and the fact that he actually came here to talk to people and serve people, he knows their voice and can represent them so much better than somebody that doesn’t mingle,” Parker said.

A deeper connection

King had a very personal experience with Martin Luther King Jr., in particular his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

“On Aug. 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. told the world about his radical new dream: That America would fulfill its promise of equality to all citizens, not just the lucky few of the right color,” said King in a statement Monday. “As his words soared from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, they were taken in by 250,000 men and women of all races, religions, creeds and ethnicities — including my 19-yearold self.

“I had climbed a tree on the National Mall to watch the speech, and from that tree I saw Dr. King light a new path forward for our country with his eloquence, his passion and his conscience. Dr. King’s speech guaranteed that his dream, so deeply rooted in the American Dream, is now and forever embedded in the fabric of our nation,” he added in the statement. “So, as we honor Dr. King today, let us take the opportunity to follow his legacy and serve — serve our friends and our neighbors, our communities and our country, as we continue to march toward the fulfillment of that radical new dream.”

King, a Baptist minister and social activist, led a nonviolent movement in the late 1950s and ’60s to achieve legal equality for African- Americans in the United States. According to The King Center, he drew inspiration from his Christian faith and the peaceful teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. In less than 13 years with his leadership of the modern American Civil Rights Movement, “African-Americans achieved more genuine progress toward racial equality in America than the previous 350 years had produced.”

The King Center’s website states that King “is widely regarded as America’s preeminent advocate of nonviolence and one of the greatest nonviolent leaders in world history.” He was the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize, at age 35 in 1964, the same year Congress passed the landmark Civil Rights Act. His leadership ended abruptly on April 4, 1968, when he was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

President Ronald Reagan signed a bill in 1983 establishing the third Monday of every January as the Martin Luther King Jr. National Holiday, beginning in 1986.

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