The Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service marked its 21st year Monday.
Tens of thousands of people volunteered in our region, setting a new record.
Organizers say more than 140,000 volunteers are serving today in some 1,800 projects throughout our region. Five thousand volunteers descended on the headquarters at Girard College to put on a Kids’ Carnival, workshops, discussions, trainings, and a Health & Wellness Fair.
For the 5th year, there’s a Jobs & Opportunity Fair, with 26 employers.
Volunteer Aliaunda Laniya was involved with teaching kids to play chess and Scrabble. She said King would have been pleased to see people from many different backgrounds teaming up together.
“This is activity in an enclosed forum, but I think this is what he envisioned for the world, for people,” she said.
The day of service has grown so big by recruiting groups to participate. Carol Harvey and her sorority turned out in big numbers to help. She said just one day of harmony is not enough.
“I think if each of us stepped up and lived this instead of celebrating it just one day of the year, I say Martin Luther King day 365 days of the year,” she said.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said the day of service is a good time for reflection.
“A lot of times we get caught up in our world. We’ve become selfish and self-centered and Dr. King’s legacy and events like this remind us we are our brother’s keeper, our sister’s keeper, and we need to help each other in life. No one’s on their own,” Kenney said.
As a former Peace Corps volunteer, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said he understands the value of service.
“We really need to give back to our communities every day, not just one day of the year, to make our communities better,” Wolf said.
The event has broken volunteer records every year for 21 straight years since being established by Todd Bernstein and former U.S. Sen. Harris Wofford (D-Pennsylvania).
Service wasn’t the only way people marked the holiday. Less than two miles away, a few dozen people gathered at Bright Hope Baptist Church for an annual program commemorating the life and messages of King, who once spoke at the North Philadelphia landmark.
The morning service featured gospel music and passionate remarks from pastors, elected officials and activists, including keynote speaker Jonathan Jackson.
Jackson, national spokesman for the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and son of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, said King’s life reminds people that sometimes struggle must come before sweetness.
“If we simply tell our children that everything is sweet and everything is great and everybody has candy, we will be diabetics to our history. You have to have the bitters in life to reflect upon how we got here,” said Jackson.
Others called for unity and for people to get out and vote.
“You should get ready in 2016 for the NAACP to harass you until you get to the voting booth,” said Rodney Muhammad, president of the organization’s Philadelphia chapter. “People have laid down their lives for us to just go in a booth and make a choice.”
NewsWorks’ Aaron Moselle contributed reporting to this story.