Wednesday, July 17, 2024
Volunteers design blankets for the homeless in 2011, at the first Cambridge MLK Day of Service. (Photo: Randy H. Goodman)

Volunteers design blankets for the homeless in 2011, at the first Cambridge MLK Day of Service. (Photo: Randy H. Goodman)

Martin Luther King Jr. Day kicks off Monday with something unique: a telecast of President Barack Obama’s public inauguration via monitors at 11 a.m. at City Hall.

Even without the swearing-in for Obama’s second term, organizers of Cambridge’s holiday events had reason to expect great things for the day.

Two years ago, they launched the local Day of Service – joining hundreds of cities around the world – and drew 500 people age 2 to 92 to Central Square for various volunteer activities to “answer answer [King’s] challenge ‘What are you doing for others?’’ Elizabeth Bartle told city councillors at a Jan. 7 meeting. Last year that grew to 800 people working for three hours to make gifts and sort food donations that went to 54 Cambridge organizations and city departments.

“This year we’re hoping for more than 1,000 volunteers, maybe even 1,200” working in the Central Square Senior Center and, since the YWCA is being renovated, City Hall, said fellow organizer Lori Lander. “I know next year we’ll need all three sites.”

A third organizer, Joan Reilly, gave a sense of what volunteers do during a Cambridge day of service. Inspired by city poet populist Toni Bee reciting a poem she’d written for that day and Valerie Stephens singing “This little light of mine,” last year volunteers made:

  • 1,564 valentines to give to isolated elders and veterans
  • 1,398 bookmarks to give to literacy programs
  • 158 fleece scarves and 88 blankets for homeless children, teens and adults
  • 974 activity kits for children in emergency rooms

Afterward, Reilly said, the Youville House assisted-living facility put the valentines into envelopes.

With more outreach, the number of volunteers has grown along with use of the Many Helping Hands 365 website, which points people toward volunteer opportunities for the rest of year. The site serves 90 nonprofit organizations and city departments that rely on volunteers, she said.

The day’s schedule:

11 a.m. Presidential inauguration viewing in Cambridge City Hall, Sullivan Chamber, 795 Massachusetts Ave.

Noon to 2 p.m. Martin Luther King Day Commemoration and Remembrance at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 838 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square. The Cambridge Peace Commission remembers and celebrates the life and work of King and his work for peace, justice and transformation, then offers an informal lunch and gathering.

2 to 5 p.m. Third Annual Cambridge MLK Day of Service kicks off on the steps of City Hall, weather permitting, or inside. Volunteer activities follow at City Hall and the Citywide Senior Center, 806 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square. Volunteers can come for any length of time but are asked to bring ring a can of food, children’s book or gently used item of winter clothing for collection boxes at City Hall.

7: 30 p.m. “The Mountaintop,” presented by the Underground Railway Theater at Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Ave.

Working through the Central Square Business Association, restaurants and other businesses plan to offer discounts Monday.