Chicago volunteers join in day of service

January 15, 2011 8:15:04 PM PST
For many, this coming Monday's observance of the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King has become anything but a day off.

In fact, thousands gathered in Chicago Saturday for a day of service to honor King.

At Penn Elementary school on the city's West Side, volunteers were building and beautifying as part of the day of service playing out at several locations across the city.

"I love helping kids and ready to give back to the community, and that's what it's about today," volunteer Datisha Trammell said.

For the tenth year in a row, community service group Chicago Cares held its celebration of service to mark the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

"Our goal today is to have those volunteers provide tutoring, provide other types of assistance in the community, help beautify some schools, all of that in the spirit of inspiring volunteerism and responding to Dr. King's call," said Chicago Cares' Jeff Braun.

More than 3,000 volunteers -- including hundreds of Chicago public school students -- worked on projects at 40 locations across the city.

"We do service all through the year. So, it's not just one day, but today they get to see how many other people are involved in service learning, as well. And they get to meet other people and be involved in the community," said Christina Salgado of CPS Service-Learning Initiative.

"We'll be engaging a lot of youth in our city in creative projects, creative projects around the theme of Dr. King's call to service and around diversity and inclusion," said Braun.

Saturday's activities began with a gathering of thousands at Union Station.

"As the choir sang 'Happy Day,' you are bringing another happy day to the people of the city of Chicago," Chicago's Mayor Daley said to the group.

Also among the speakers was Chicago businessman and philanthropist Chris Gardner, whose rags-to-riches story was chronicled in the film The Pursuit of Happyness.

"The work that you do today is going to make a difference in the life of somebody that you probably will never meet. So, on behalf of those folks, I'd like to say thank you," Gardner said.

Chicago Cares is celebrating its 20th year, and Saturday's celebration of service is just one of several volunteer efforts throughout the country to commemorate the life of Martin Luther King Jr.

This is the 25th year for the MLK holiday.