Martin Luther King Jr. Day not your ordinary holiday
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org January 18, 2013 4:38PM
Want to Volunteer?
It’s not too late to help.
Volunteers for The Martin Luther King Day of Service will start gathering at 7:30 a.m. at the University of St. Francis for breakfast and registration before they head out on their projects for the day.
R. Dale Evans, who chairs the planning committee, said peope each year show up without having registered in advance. He expects many will come again this year. But Evans asks that people who want to volunteer call first if they can to pre-register. The phone number to call is 815-549-5678.
Parking at the University of St. Francis will be available at the Sullivan Center, and signs will direct people to The President’s Room, where the volunteers will gather in the morning.
Breakfast will be served during registration. The volunteers will head out on their assignments at 9 a.m. and finish at noon. They will return to the University of St. Francis for lunch.
Updated: February 21, 2013 6:42AM
If you’ve got Monday off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, here’s an idea for how to spend it. Get to work — for free.
People in Joliet and across the country will do just that as they mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a day of service.
“It’s a day on, not a day off,” said R. Dale Evans, who chairs the Martin Luther King Day of Service Planning Committee of Joliet.
Evans and up to 200 others will spend Monday morning doing volunteer projects around the city.
It’s a fitting way to not only honor the slain civil rights leader but fulfill King’s dream, Evans said.
“He had a dream that one day black man and white man would be able to sit at the table of brotherhood,” Evans said. “That’s what we are doing. We are living his dream.”
It’s interesting to reflect that 45 years ago when King was assassinated it would have been unusual in many U.S. cities to see people of mixed races going out together for the simple mission of spending a day in volunteer service in such simple chores as cleaning shelter kitchens, painting walls in a home for people with disabilities, or helping clean a cemetery.
That’s what’s happening Monday.
“When I look at the list of people who have signed up to volunteer, they just want to go out and help others,” Evans said. “They’re people of all races, colors and creeds.”
Forty-five years is a long time.
But not so long that people have lost their vivid memories of Martin Luther King Jr.
Edna Brass, an administrator with the Joliet Township High School District, remembers the sadness and fear she felt in the days following King’s assassination.
Brass was a Joliet Central High School student in April 1968. She was sad because King had died. And, she was fearful because fires were being set in the streets of Joliet in the tense days that followed King’s assassination.
“There was a feeling of who would take on what he had started,” Brass said.
She believes King’s message is passed on when people volunteer to help others on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“It gives a lot more meaning to the holiday,” Brass said. “It brings that much more attention to Martin Luther King and what he did for society. For many of our holiday Mondays off, there’s not much focus on why we have the day off.”
About 50 students from Joliet Central and Joliet West high schools will be part of the day of service. They and others will do humble tasks, helping agencies and organizations that depend on volunteers. The high school students will be out on what promises to be a very cold day at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, removing wreaths that were placed at graves for the Christmas holiday.
Some of the other chores for the day including preparing walls for painting at the Daybreak Shelter for the homeless, clearing brush at Will County’s Rock Run Forest Preserve, and an assortment of cleaning tasks for nonprofit organizations across Joliet.
Guardian Angel Community Services has been welcoming King Day volunteers for their help since the Joliet program started.
Ines Kutlesa, chief executive officer for Guardian Angel, said the day of volunteer service helps introduce her agency and other social service organizations to people each year.
“Those who haven’t been here become more educated about what we do,” Kutlesa said. “Certainly I think it helps familiarize people with our agencies and other agencies out there.”
The commitment to service makes Martin Luther King Jr. Day unique among holidays. But Brass said it’s also unique in that it’s a holiday that commemorates someone that so many people still remember as “a living legend” when he was alive.
“We remember him. We’re still here,” Brass said. “We want to pass on that legacy as to who Martin Luther King was.”