Volunteers observe MLK Day with service

January 17, 2011 3:30:24 PM PST
Hundreds of students honored the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by participating in community service projects.

ABC7's Evelyn Holmes has the story of what some high school students did in the Englewood neighborhood on the city's South Side.

For many, the MLK holiday is a day off, but for a group of students and neighborhood residents it was a day spent on honoring the memory of the civil rights leader. Hundreds gave their time Monday to put Dr. King's ideals into action.

"I think it's a good way to remember all the things he wanted the people to do for this day," said Cynthia Bell, volunteer.

While some came to honor the memory of a civil rights icon, all on hand were dedicated to putting the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into action.

"It's exploring, but also, it's self-growth, personal growth," said Benazir Ali, volunteer.

To mark the 25th anniversary of his federal holiday, students and neighborhood residents participated in a day of service.

"This year, there's more than 1,100 volunteers at this site, and that's the biggest event we've been a part of," said Mark Pierce, City Year Chicago.

The event was organized by City Year Chicago and several community groups.

"If Dr. King were here today, he would be so proud and so excited to see that his dream has truly manifested," said Robert Johnson, Bank of America.

And, with the City of Chicago and others as sponsors, volunteers helped spruce up three grade schools in need, including Englewood's Stagg Elementary.

"We get an opportunity to get our school brightened..to motivate our students, to motivate our teachers," said Stagg Assistant Principal Aisha McCarthy.

As some outlined an inspirational mural for the school's stairways, volunteers like Adolfo Hernandez helped paint primary vocabulary meant to to help young readers.

"We hope to have a big impact on this school with just a few hours of work," Hernandez said.

Melody Geraci Also decided to give of her time -- especially after the not-for-profit she works for agreed to donate a day of work for the project.

"We try to pay it forward, or give it back, however you want to say it, one day a year in the communities that we serve. Makes us feel really good, " said Geraci.

But, for student Jermaine Thomas, Monday was about walking the talk when it comes to the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"Words are just words unless you put action to it. I think it's important to live out what we're speaking," said Thomas.

Two other schools, Wentworth and Guggenheim Elementary, also got a much-needed spruce up.

Most of Monday's volunteers say they wish they could be at the schools Tuesday to see the faces of the children, teachers and staff as the return to their new, brighter environments.