Day of Service organizers to focus on poverty and employment on MLK Day

The 17th annual Day of Service has been organized for Martin Luther King Day. On Monday, January 16, a record 85,000 people are expected to volunteer throughout the region.

For the first time, it will feature a job fair. Girard College in North Philadelphia will host at least 20 employers on the holiday.

“We think of Dr. King as being a champion of civil rights,” said Day of Service organizer Todd Bernstein, “but in fact—particularly in the later years of his life—he was focused on jobs and economic justice. Whether it was the March for Jobs and Freedom in Washington in 1963, or the Poor People’s Campaign he was planning just before he died. So I think poverty and economic concerns were at the top of his agenda in the later years.”

Thirteen hundred charitable and community activities are scheduled for the Day of Service, the largest effort in the country. Girard College will be the headquarters, where an anticipated 3,000 people will be packaging food for the hungry.

One hundred thousand meals will be assembled for distribution worldwide through Stop Hunger Now. There will also be a canned food drive for the local pantries at the Salvation Army, Philabundance, and the Johnson Community Center in North Philadelphia.

The Day of Service honored Ken Salaam with the 14th Harris Wofford Active Citizenship Award. Salaam began his career as an activist as a teenager in the 1960s when he stood at the gates of Girard College to call for the school to overturn its discriminatory admissions policy.

“We can’t choose our families. We can’t choose our race,” said Salaam, accepting the award from Mayor Michael Nutter. “But we can choose not to discriminate. We can choose not to segregate. We can choose to alleviate poverty, alleviate economic disparity, and give all citizens of the world an opportunity to have prosperity.”

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