What may be a sleepy day off for some will galvanize what organizers expect to be more than 140,000 others into helping people in need Monday when the 21st annual Martin Luther King Day of Service draws volunteers from across the region.

In Chester, where the civil rights leader spent three years as a young theologian, a tribute to King and a wreath-laying ceremony will highlight a day of volunteerism at the Salvation Army's Corps Community Center on West 15th Street.

At Philadelphia's Girard College, where King participated in a desegregation protest just months after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965, 5,000 volunteers, including Gov. Wolf, Mayor Kenney, and other dignitaries, will take part in 150 service projects.

In all, organizers said, a record number of volunteers have registered for more than 1,800 area projects on the federal holiday that coincides with the birthday of the orator and activist whose life ended at age 39, when he was assassinated in 1968.

Matching volunteers

Whether seeking a place to volunteer in Bucks County or within the nation's fifth-largest city, participants may find a good fit by registering as late as Monday morning at http://mlkdayofservice.org, organizer Todd Bernstein said.

"We have a database," said Bernstein, "that enables us to match volunteers with projects that need help."

People may also call 215-851-1811, which will be staffed starting at 6:30 a.m. Monday, Bernstein said.

The two highest-profile hubs of activity, in Chester and at Girard College near Philadelphia's Fairmount section, have historical attachments to King.

He spent three years in Chester and in nearby Upland, from 1948 to 1951, while attending the Crozer Theological Seminary. Today, the building where he studied is part of Crozer-Chester Medical Center.

Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland, officials of Salvation Army of Chester, and volunteers from Swarthmore College, Widener University, and other community institutions will be on hand to make care packages for homeless military veterans and to participate in other events from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Salvation Army.

"You see a diverse group of people from all walks of life, from all stations of life, just coming together for a community-building purpose, and it just feels great," said Twyla Simpkins, chair of the MLK Commemorative Committee of Chester and Vicinity.

In Pennsauken, volunteers will help the Food Bank of South Jersey, from 9 a.m. to noon, sort through and box food donations.

In Camden County, many service opportunities are scheduled for Monday in Gloucester Township.

Volunteers can register at 8:30 a.m. at Charles W. Lewis School, 875 Erial Rd., for activities including the collection and organization of food and clothing donations, and cleanup activities.

In Atlantic County, volunteers can register for activities at 8 a.m. at Stockton University, 101 Vera Farris King Dr., Galloway.

Volunteers in Plumsteadville, north of Doylestown, will gather at Plumstead Christian School to prepare 100,000 lifesaving meals in affiliation with Feed My Starving Children.

At Abington Friends School in Jenkintown, projects include preparing donated meals, a creek cleanup, bread-baking, and putting together craft and activity packets for young patients at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children.

Youth basketball clinics known as "Hoops From the Heart" will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Monday at Cabrini College in Radnor, Haverford College in Haverford, Neumann University in Aston, and Widener University in Chester. Fees for the clinics will be donated to the Community Action Agency of Delaware County.

From one day to every day

Bernstein, who in 1994 founded the Greater Philadelphia King Day of Service - the country's largest, he said - has labeled this year's theme Justice.

To that end, projects at Girard College are geared toward assisting low-income and unemployed people. One involves sorting, steaming, and packing donated clothing so that it can be given to job-seekers in need of interview outfits.

A goal of the whole day, Bernstein said, is to inspire people to act generously every day of their lives.

"The reason I started this," he said, "is using the teachings of King and his life as a way of meeting some of the challenges we face in contemporary society."


Staff writer Robert Moran contributed to this article.