Nearly 50 years after hundreds of thousands of people crowded the Mall in Washington to hear the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his "I Have a Dream" speech, more than 100,000 are expected to spend a day volunteering in his name in the region this month for the 18th annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service.
At a news conference at Girard College on Wednesday, Todd Bernstein, the founder of Philadelphia's service day - the oldest and largest King service day in the country - said he expected 110,000 volunteers to participate in more than 1,500 community service projects on Jan. 21, topping last year's record of more than 105,000.
"Philadelphia is at the center of this all, and this growing national movement," he said to students, volunteers, and city officials in Founder's Hall.
Among the activities slated for this year are a job and opportunities fair at Girard - where more than 15 employers will be on hand "with real jobs" to offer, Bernstein noted; a health and wellness fair; arts workshops; beautification of city recreation centers; and food preparation at homeless shelters.
This year's signature project will be providing 150 Philadelphia Housing Authority residents with free netbook computers, the continuation of an Internet access program from the Keyspot partnership.
Keyspot - a joint venture led by the Urban Affairs Coalition, Drexel University, and the city - aims to provide Internet access and training to city residents who lack it. It has more than 80 training centers across the city.
PHA residents who complete two training sessions at certain Keyspot locations are eligible to receive a free netbook and inexpensive wireless service for their households.
As part of the effort, more than 3,500 netbooks have been awarded to PHA residents since 2011, according to Marlon Miller, a Keyspot spokesman, and the group plans to distribute 5,000 netbooks in all.
Also at the news conference, Clear Channel Radio employee Loraine Ballard Morrill was presented with the 15th annual Harris Wofford Active Citizenship Award for her participation in and promotion of the day of service.
"Loraine has been a constant, constant advocate" for the day of service, Deputy Mayor Richard Negrin said. He thanked her for "embodying the highest values of Dr. King."
In an interview afterward, Ballard Morrill, who has volunteered every year since the day's inception in 1996 and promoted it on Clear Channel stations, said she was shocked to win the award.
"The definition of 'gobsmacked' has my picture next to it," she said with a laugh.
Girard will be the main host for the day of service for the fourth consecutive year, and individuals interested in participating may preregister at www.mlkdayofservice.org.