Organizers and volunteers eager to participate in community activities honoring Martin Luther King Jr., gathered at Girard College on Monday for the 17th annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service.
The organizers at Girard College hosted 150 projects and workshops with more than 4,000 volunteers determined to serve and impact the community. The event kicked off with the opening of the MLK365 Civic Engagement Expo and Health and Wellness Fair, followed by entertainment. As the crowd settled, the opening ceremony began with the introduction of guests Vice President Joe Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, Mayor Michael Nutter, former Pennsylvania Sen. Harris Wofford and Girard College President Autumn Graves. Biden discussed the importance of the Martin Luther King holiday and reflected on the day he learned of King’s assassination and the impact it had on him.
Maria J. Walker, project manager for Freedom Rings Partnership and a volunteer organizer for the event, was pleased with the turnout and with the overall enthusiasm of the participants to conduct community service.
“This is definitely the most exciting event because of the presence of the vice president and the fact that they’re tying an economic aspect to it − with the digital job fair, and the actual job fair,” Walker said.
In an effort to empower the community economically, the event held its first-ever Jobs and Opportunity Fair, featuring 20 local employers and representatives of several AmeriCorps national service programs. The purpose of the fair was to provide more than 500 prospective employees with skills in resume writing and interviewing techniques, give information on restoring credit, offer tips for dressing for success, and providie paths to work for ex-offenders.
“They also assist people in setting up email addresses, which is appropriate to bridge the digital gap in Philadelphia,” Walker said.
Another significant project was for the volunteers to package up to 100,000 meals through a partnership with the international relief program, Stop Hunger Now. Volunteers and organizers joined to put together care packages.
One of the many workshops was held by the Cecil B. Moore Philadelphia Freedom Fighters, a group of civil rights activists who fought for integration with King at Girard College and for civil rights throughout the nation. One of those civil rights activists was Karen Jordan. Jordan brought her parents to take part in the day of service and to reflect on the past.
“We were the original demonstrators here at Girard College, so it is a wonderful experience being here today,” she said. “There’s so many volunteers out here, and I love seeing so many kids involved.”
With a combination of various workshops, expositions, a kids’ carnival and job fairs, the participants and volunteers were active in honoring King.
“Today was really about connecting the importance of economic empowerment as a civil rights issue.”