Many Helping Hands Cambridge, with representatives from other city agencies, led more than 400 volunteers in Day of Service projects on behalf of the city’s homeless, homebound elderly, children, families, veterans and servicemen and women Monday to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, a group representative said. The local volunteers joined hundreds of thousands of Americans across the country in making the holiday a day on, not a day off by serving others.
“Martin Luther King devoted his life to advancing equality, social justice and opportunity for all, and taught us that everyone has a role to play in making America what it ought to be,” said Eva Martin Blythe, executive director of the Cambridge YWCA and Monday’s event host. “By serving today and throughout the year, we honor Dr. King and help realize his dream of equality and opportunity for all.”
In just a few hours, volunteers extended a hand to Cambridge residents by making fleece blankets and scarves for the YWCA Family Shelter, Transition House, Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center and the homeless men and women who will be found sleeping on the street late Jan. 26, the night of the Homeless Census; bookmarks for the Literacy Project at Cambridge Public Library, Community Learning Center and Tutoring Plus; handmade Valentine cards for homebound elders served by the Meals-on-Wheels program and Cambridge’s veterans and service men and women; and emergency room kits for the children of families in Cambridge Hospital and Mount Auburn Hospital waiting rooms. The Cambridge Energy Alliance handed out free energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs in exchange for old incandescent bulbs.
Volunteers were told to “not come empty-handed,” and organizers collected several hundred boxes of much-needed items to help Cambridge residents, said Lori Lander, of Many Helping Hands Cambridge. Donations included winter children’s clothing for Cambridge Children’s Clothing Exchange, adult clothing for CASPAR, On the Rise and the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter; food donations for many Cambridge food pantries, including, CEOC, St. Paul A.M.E, Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House, St. James Episcopal Church; and children’s books to Reach Out and Read Programs at East Cambridge Health Center, Windsor Street Health Center, Cambridge Family Health in Porter Square, Cambridge Family Health Inman Square.
This year marks the quarter-century anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday, Lander noted, and organizers saw the milestone as an opportunity for Americans to remember King’s life and legacy and to honor him by taking action to solve problems in their communities. Gov. Deval Patrick declared Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a day of service for Massachusetts on Sunday. The Corporation for National and Community Service leads the annual MLK Day of Service nationwide, working with the King Center in Atlanta and thousands of nonprofit groups, faith-based organizations and schools and businesses nationwide.