MLK Day of Service focuses on ending gun violence

Cherri Gregg
January 21, 2019 - 9:48 am
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (podium) speaks at the opening ceremony of the Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Jr., Day of Service at Girard College, Jan. 21, 2019.

Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The 24th annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service is the largest in the nation, bringing together an estimated 150,000 volunteers across the region.

Headquartered at Girard College, about 5,000 volunteers showed up Monday morning to participate in more than 125 service projects throughout the day, ranging from packing gift bags for foster youth to knitting keepsakes for soldiers serving overseas. 

The theme this year, however, is focused on youth and ending gun violence. Inspired by the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the signature project is a dream booth. Cloth panels are added to a 6-foot structure, which are etched with thoughts on a world without gun violence. The goal is to use the day to inspire.

The booths will be distributed to 100 schools in the region.

“One day is not enough,” said Todd Bernstein, CEO of Global Citizen. “We need to turn this into 365 days of service.”

“We need to work toward what Dr. King died for,” added Gov. Tom Wolf, “and that is a fair society, and we need to rededicate ourselves to ending gun violence.”

Mayor Jim Kenney, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and others took part in the project.

This is the 10th year that the signature project has been hosted by Girard College. The school is celebrating its 50th anniversary of integration.

It's been nearly 53 years since King spoke outside of Girard College. At the time, the Philadelphia Freedom Fighters — just teenagers led by Cecil B. Moore — were marching around the walls of the school. It took three more years before the school welcomed its first African-American students.

"Some of those folks who were around in 1965 are here today," added Katherine Haas, director of historical resources at Girard. Their exhibit set up for MLK Day showcases footage of King's speech at the instruction. "Young people want to be involved as leaders."

This year, King would have been 90 years old.