CHICAGO (WLS) -- To celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, many in Chicago and Illinois are observing a day of service.
A group of local and state leaders honored the call to service in Chicago, joining a citywide effort to help school children. Volunteers from City Year packed school supplies for students around the city.
"From its earliest days, the COVID pandemic forced us to take public service beyond traditional association of those working in government and broadened it to encompass every role we play in the lives of our fellow residents," said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Dr. King has a rich history in Chicago, leading marches in 1966 and even renting a West Side apartment for a while. Illinois was the first state to recognize him with an official holiday in 1973, pushed by then-state representative Harold Washington.
"It's so fitting that this day has been so synonymous with service as hundreds of thousands of Americans find ways to work together to improve all our communities in the name of Dr. King," said Governor JB Pritzker.
This is the 27th annual national day of service to honor Dr. King. Another group in the city passed out 300 laptops for students at three different schools, including Corliss High School.
"What you are doing today and what you do every day really can either tear up, tear down, or build up," said Lieutenant Governor Julianna Stratton. "It can either discourage or encourage."
"This is not a moment for despair. This is not a moment for reflection on the wound, it's for the cure," said Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx.
Also in Chicago, a group of young athletes packed food for people at the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Officials there said this is the highest need they've seen in 40 years.
"We literally see hundreds of thousands of our neighbors who are struggling just to make sure they have food to eat and that need is not going to go away soon," said Kate Maehr, executive director and CEO of the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
With the help of Cubs Charities, more than 80 of their volunteers, including some of Chicago's favorites like Ian Happ and players from the Cubs RBI All Stars, a youth baseball team, came together to pack food for families all across the area.
"The numbers are staggering as we know in terms of food insecurity and unemployment. It even affects some of our own Cubs Charities program participants, but they are still here and still giving back. We have just been really impressed with our non-profit partners that are doing such work and have transformed some of their own missions to be able to serve the great need of the city of Chicago," said Alicia Gonzalez, executive director Cubs Charities.
"Families are still really struggling with food instability, housing instability, lack of equitable access to healthcare, so many of the other ills that this pandemic has really magnified and so the struggle is real and we fear that this struggle will continue through 2021," said Carlos Nelson, CEO of the Greater Auburn Gresham Development.
Donations are always accepted, every single dollar helps and if you can't donate funds, your time is just as valuable. For more information on how to donate or volunteer, visit the Greater Chicago Food Depository website.