Monday, 18 January 2010

Local Volunteers Take Part in Annual MLK Day of Service

People throughout the country were celebrating the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on Monday. Here in the Delaware Valley, thousands of volunteers were fanned out at various events to do their part.

KYW's Karin Phillips reports that 3,000 volunteers were expected at Girard College on Monday for the centerpiece of the Philadelphia region’s Martin Luther King Jr. day of service.

A health and wellness fair, community workshops, a civic engagement expo, weatherization kits, 175 community service projects throughout the Girard College campus, with the main activities in the Armory.

Todd Bernstein is executive director of the MLK day of service says Haiti will not be forgotten:

"At our opening ceremony, we will ask the 3,000 volunteers at the armory in Girard College to take out their cell phones and text in a donation for the people of Haiti through the Red Cross."

Martin Luther King Jr. came to Girard College in 1965 to march and help protest the then whites-only admission policy of the school.

KYW's Brad Segall reports that Doctor King’s spirit was alive and well in Montgomery County where students from throughout the area volunteered their time to help less fortunate students in the Philadelphia area.

Nearly 200 volunteers, including dozens of students, turned out at Cradles to Crayons to help make packages for underprivileged kids in the region. The organization partners with social service agencies to get school supplies, toys and clothing into the hands of kids who don’t have them.

Kelly is an eighth grader at Perkiomen Valley Middle School:

“I like helping kids in need and I know that they need a lot of help. It’s just kind of like from the goodness of my heart so, you know, it’s fun to help people.”

It’s also a big day for Cradles to Crayons. The non-profit organization is packing up it’s donated items, getting ready for a move to a new home -- a 19,000 square foot warehouse in West Conshohocken that will be ready in early March.

KYW's Steve Tawa reports that a Fishtown recreation center got the once-over by "White-Williams scholars" - both current high school students and alumni who wanted to be part of the MLK day of service.

The young people included at-risk, high achieving, low-income Philadelphians like Egypt and Tom, who were circling a bench outside the rec center, applying their design technique, and paint to liven it up:

Egypt: "We were going to put a message. This one reads 'the sky is the limit,' so we were going to make a message that people could read, and give them hope when they read it."

Tom: "What were doing is painting the bench, mostly red, but then there are blue squares in random parts of the whole bench."

Tanequa Neale is a program associate with the White-Williams scholars:

"Our theme is art for social change. Our students are excited about giving back. Civic engagement is an important component of our program."

Several others at the rec center on East Montgomery Avenue broke out lime green and aqua blue paint, to bring out the fish motif on the walls of the Fishtown skating rink.

KYW's Mike Dunn reports that this year's traditional Martin Luther King Day ringing of the Liberty Bell was particularly poignant: it featured a man freed after 35 years in prison after being exonerated of rape charges.

The bell ringing was ceremonial, of course, but standing at the Liberty Bell was a man who never imagined he would be there: 54-year James Bain, who just last month was freed from a Florida prison after serving 35 years. Ceremony emcee James Tucker praised Bain's courage:

"He is the personification of liberty and justice."

Bain was freed after the Innocence Project law center successfully petitioned the court for DNA testing. Bain reflected on the moment:

"I only have but a few words to put this. I never dreamed I would be here to do what I got to do."

KYW's Pat Loeb reports one MLK Day project took place at Richard Allen Charter School in Southwest Philadelphia.

Dozens of student and adult volunteers put the finishing touches on a library that's been three years in the making, according to Richard Allen Charter School's chief academic officer Jessica Richard:

"When we moved into this building, our school had not yet secured the funding to acquire the library books, furniture and all the necessary materials."

Richard says the school got grants for books and a server and, in honor of Martin Luther King, IKEA sent the furniture. Students such as Terrence Burnson came in on their day off and helped put it together, though he didn't see it as a purely noble activity:

"It's just about having fun, it's not really nothing special because this is my school and this is my library and this is what I do for my school, I work within my school."

Burnson also says he plans to take out plenty of books, now that the library is officially open.

KYW's Mike DeNardo reports that Jewish and Muslim students worked together in community service.

Students from the Al-Aqsa Islamic Academy in North Philadelphia and the

Saligman school in Melrose Park assemble toiletries in 200 so-called "dignity kits" for the homeless. They then helped to distribute them to the homeless with activist Sacaree Rhodes at the Municipal Services Building. Student Lily Mohamed says it's rewarding to find common ground:

"For Muslims and Jewish to unite in one place and work for someone, or try to help someone, that's actually a great feeling."

And student Josh Perloff says it's gratifying being able to see and interact with the people you're helping:

"It's a bit different of a feeling. You get a bigger sense of, 'Wow, I helped someone.' Rather than just giving money or something to an organization."

Students at South Philadelphia High School are using this Martin Luther King Day to help bridge the culture gap.

"You have to really allow yourself to be led by your partner."

In one workshop, students in parallel lines faced each other, and mirrored each other's movements. South Philadelphia High School principal LaGreta Brown says it's only one way to help blacks, asians, and all cultures find a common humanity on King Day:

"The significance of the activities are to continue the dream of Martin Luther King of Unity, of peace and non-violence."

After racial unrest at the school, superintendent Arlene Ackerman says the exercises are designed to promote Doctor King's teaching:

"What we're doing here is acknowledging that, and the importance of healing and unity."

About 75 students attended the workshops.

Source :

No comments: