Sherry Patterson and her son Michael sort through the large pile of donations received on Monday as part of the Black Awareness Association of Juneau’s annual collection drive at St. Paul’s Catholic Church. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)

Sherry Patterson and her son Michael sort through the large pile of donations received on Monday as part of the Black Awareness Association of Juneau’s annual collection drive at St. Paul’s Catholic Church. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)

Holiday drive strives to honor King’s legacy through service

Black Awareness Association of Juneau holds MLK Day drive.

Amy Kesten views Martin Luther King Jr. Day as much more than a day off of work. The Juneau resident said she sees it as a chance to follow the civil rights leader’s example of caring for neighbors.

“We all have an obligation to do something like Martin Luther King was doing, not just enjoying a holiday,” Kesten said. “I think Dr. King is a really amazing person to honor. I’ve always kind of been an activist and I’m driven to help others; I feel very lucky to have the life that I have.”

Kesten was one of many to make it out on Monday for the Black Awareness Association of Juneau’s annual collection drive in St. Peter’s Hall at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in the Mendenhall Valley. This year’s drive was accepting donations on behalf of the Shéiyi X̱aat Hit (Spruce Root House) and Glory Hall shelter.

“I’m honored to be a part of what we’re doing in this community,” said BAA President Sherry Patterson. “We are here to commemorate Dr. King. He was a man of service, he was a man who cared about his community and his neighbors, especially those who were in unfortunate situations, so we chose to do this drive again.”

Patterson said this year was slightly different than past drives simply based on the types of items being asked for from the shelters. Such items included underwear, socks, hairbrushes, waterproof boots and gloves, as well as toilet paper, shampoo, soap, toothbrushes and sanitary pads and tampons. Patterson said that while they try to alternate among different shelters each year, Glory Hall tends to be at the top of their list every year because of the high demand.

“The community really supports these efforts, we’re so appreciative of that,” Patterson said. “In the past, before COVID, we have sponsored a communitywide service, usually at St. Paul’s to commemorate Dr. King. We’re looking at bringing that back in 2024, but for the last two years these drives have been overwhelmingly successful.”

The nearly 30-year nonprofit organization has been strong since 1994, Patterson said. In addition to hosting a collection drive on MLK Day, Patterson said the organization also holds annual events for Black History month in February, as well as community celebrations for Juneteenth and a fundraising event for their Black Excellence Scholarship Award for Juneau high school students.

BAA also has its own radio show with KTOO every Thursday hosted by Patterson’s daughter Christina Michelle called Culture Rich Conversations. Patterson said the aim has remained to educate the public about the Black community in Juneau and according to Patterson’s son Michael Patterson, within the show’s three-year run they’ve been successful at doing just that.

“We just try to offer a different perspective; I think it’s great, we get a lot of good feedback,” Michael Patterson said. “We try to make sure people understand it’s not a ‘Black’ show, but rather it’s meant to provide a perspective that you might not see or hear otherwise. So far, it’s been positive for the most part and we’re hoping to see it grow more here in year three.”

Patterson said she’s grateful to the Juneau community for embracing the BAA and supporting them every year, adding that she feels she often receives more information from preparing for the events than she feels the association puts out.

“There are very few African Americans here in Juneau and we just believe in being visible in our community and being active,” Patterson said. “We want our community to know who we are and so we take every opportunity to do some kind of event as things come up.”

• Contact reporter Jonson Kuhn at jonson.kuhn@juneauempire.com.

Abby O’Brien brings in her boxes of donations for Michael Patterson and the Black Awareness Association of Juneau during their annual collection drive on Monday at St. Paul’s Catholic Church. This year items were being raised for Shéiyi X̱aat Hit (Spruce Root House) and Glory Hall shelter. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)

Abby O’Brien brings in her boxes of donations for Michael Patterson and the Black Awareness Association of Juneau during their annual collection drive on Monday at St. Paul’s Catholic Church. This year items were being raised for Shéiyi X̱aat Hit (Spruce Root House) and Glory Hall shelter. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)

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