12 ways to make an impact in Northwest Philly on MLK Day and throughout the year

 Volunteers clean up Houston playground in Mt. Airy on MLK Day 2013. (Lane Blackmer/for NewsWorks, file)

Volunteers clean up Houston playground in Mt. Airy on MLK Day 2013. (Lane Blackmer/for NewsWorks, file)

“What are you doing for others?” That question, famously spoken by Martin Luther King, Jr., has become the focus of his national holiday on Monday.

Now in its 19th year, the Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service gives people an opportunity to honor the life and legacy of King through community service projects.

Todd Bernstein, who initiated the service day in 1996, says the program was started to honor King by “meeting community needs with citizen action.”

“It’s grown exponentially since we started with 1,000 volunteers,” said Bernstein, who expects 125,000 volunteers on Monday. “I think the notion of celebrating Dr. King’s legacy through citizen action resonates with people because he was a champion of action and an enemy of apathy.”

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He says the program hasn’t only grown, it’s also created an active community of volunteers who get involved year-round.

“It’s transformative,” said Bernstein, who resides in West Mt. Airy. “We’ve seen people make ongoing commitments.”

To help you get involved, NewsWorks compiled this list of volunteer activities in Northwest Philadelphia that can help you spring into action on Monday. In the spirit of MLK365, the list also includes year-round volunteer options.

Henry H. Houston Elementary School, Mt. Airy: The Trolley Car Diner welcomes volunteers to help organize, clean and paint at Houston Elementary. Contact Steven Urgo at 215-247-555, ext. 201 or email steve@phillyofficeretail.com.

Germantown Friends School, Germantown: Service projects will run throughout the day at GFS, with registration beginning at 8 a.m. at Front Hall on campus. GFS is also collecting school supplies for two nearby schools. Items most needed are markers, crayons, tape, pen, pencils, staplers, glue sticks, paper and winter clothing, which can be dropped off at Front Hall on Monday. Contact Kathy Paulmier at 215-951-2325 or or register online.

Unitarian Society of Germantown, Germantown/East Falls: Service day at USG begins at 8 a.m. and projects will wrap up at 4 p.m. Projects include school and street cleanups, making and bagging meals for Meals on Wheels, shelving books, playing games with senior citizens, making ceramics, writing letters and posters for advocacy groups, painting murals for local shelters and collecting coats. Visit the Unitarian Society’s website or email admin@usguu.org to learn more.

Lincoln Drive Trail, Germantown: From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. the Friends of the Wissahickon invites volunteers to help remove debris on and around the Lincoln Drive Trail. The group will meet at Historic RittenhouseTown. Contact Eric Falk at falk@fow.org and check FOW’s Facebook page for event updates.

Chew and Belfield Neighbors Club, Germantown: From 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. CBNC volunteers will clean streets, sidewalks, empty lots, alleys and other areas in the community. Target areas include Chew and Johnson to Chew and Haines streets as well as Ardleigh and Washington to Ross and Washington streets. Participants are asked to bring supplies or donation of sandwiches, snacks or water bottles. Contact Rev. Chester H. Williams at 215-849-8021.

BuildaBridge, Germantown: This group helps people in poverty and needs volunteers year-round to help with events, hospitality, marketing, office work and international programs. Visit their volunteer page to learn more.

North Light Community Center, Manayunk: Volunteers are needed year-round at the center for tasks like helping kids with homework and delivering dinners to needy families. Visit their volunteer page to get started.

Salvation Army Kroc Center, Roxborough: Throughout the year the Kroc Center hosts events and activities that are possible because of the work of volunteers. Register to be a part of the “army behind the Army” here.

East Falls Village, East Falls: EFV is a resource for senior residents. The group utilizes volunteers year-round for transportation and other administrative roles. Complete their application form here.

Philly Girls in Motion, West Oak Lane: Held throughout each month at Simons Recreation Center, the group needs volunteers to help with fitness classes and other duties. Check out their website to learn how to get involved.

Meals on Wheels, Chestnut Hill: This branch of MOW needs people to prepare and transport food year-round. Learn more here.

Northwest Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network, Mt. Airy: Basic tasks like laundry, cooking and food shopping are available for volunteers to do at NWIHN. Other options include mentoring, fundraising and staying as an overnight host. Find out how you can help here.

Bernstein strongly recommends calling projects for volunteer availability. A full list of the 1,700 projects occuring on Martin Luther King Jr. Day is available at mlkdayofservice.org. The MLK365 website offers resources for volunteer opportunities and civic engagement year-round.

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