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Volunteers paint Roy Wilkins center during MLK event

By Christina Santucci

More than 80 Habitat for Humanity volunteers and soon-to-be homeowners converged on Roy Wilkins Park Family Center Saturday to pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by sprucing up the southeast Queens facility with murals and fresh paint.

Former St. Albans resident Voncille Chaney, who hopes to move into her new Laurelton home with the help of Habitat for Humanity in the summer, was among those pitching in.

“I know our painting is going to inspire people when they come in,” she said.

Chaney and her son have been living in Brooklyn with her 11-year-old son Ahmai for the past six years and is anxious to return to Queens. She gushed about the home she is slated to move into.

“I love the backyard. My son is actually going to be able to go outside,” she said, explaining that her son is not allowed to hang out in the neighborhood because of violence in the area. “It’s very dangerous. There are a lot of shootings, daytime shootings. I would rather preserve his life.”

To receive a home from Habitat, the head of the household must put in 200 hours of service, organizers said.

“We partner with great families who just need a hand up and this is a great way to honor that legacy with service,” said Neil Hetherington, the organization’s CEO.

Saturday’s service project was part of Habitat for Humanity’s annual service weekend, held nationwide to commemorate MLK Day Monday.

“Every single day is a day of service with Habitat, but this is particularly special,” Hetherington said. “One of the great aspects of it is obviously honoring the memory of Dr. King, but it’s a renewal of the partnership we have with AmeriCorps.”

Between 12 and 15 AmeriCorps volunteers were on hand Saturday, organizers said.

The Roy Wilkins facility was selected after the site hosted former President Jimmy Carter, who spoke to Habitat for Humanity volunteers last year.

“This is also our way of giving back to them and saying thank you,” Hetherington said.

Reach managing editor Christina Santucci by e-mail at timesledgerphotos@gmail.com by phone at 718-260-4589.

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