Martin Luther King Day is just a day off for some. But for a multitude of others who are not reporting to work, it is a day to give others a hand.
Mayor Nutter was right at his inauguration when he challenged Philadelphians "to take personal responsibility for looking out for someone else in our community. Mentor a child. Volunteer at a rec center. Go to a homeless center. Work with a town watch in a neighborhood."
Volunteering changes things - not just on King Day, but every day. Whether you are picking up litter to help clean up the streets or tutoring a foreign-born citizen in reading, you are helping to improve society.
The problems are great and they are connected - poverty, violence, joblessness, homelessness, helplessness, hopelessness.
Today, 37 million Americans - including 13 million children - live in poverty. Many don't see a way out.
What can you do to help? Make a personal commitment. Community-based groups need volunteers year-round. Let this holiday be the beginning.
Find what's right for you. If you like animals, volunteer at an animal shelter. Are you musically inclined? Provide an afternoon of entertainment at a nursing home. Like to cook? Prepare meals for the homeless.
In 1994, Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act, designating this holiday as a national day of volunteer service.
Across the nation, myriad service projects will include a "Silence the Violence" gang summit in Oklahoma City; renovating public schools in New Orleans; free dental screenings in Bloomington, Ind.; beautifying a homeless shelter in Washington; and recruiting mentors in Los Angeles.
The 13th annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service expects a record turnout of 60,000 volunteers. Nutter calls them "citizen servants."
The point is to get involved with others, to be connected. People who know and care about one another don't hurt one another.
Dr. King called it a "beloved community." This year marks the 40th anniversary of his death, and the question he often posed still needs to be asked: "What are you doing for others?"
There are many ways to find out about volunteering: Ask your religious or community center; search the Internet; or ask friends where they volunteer.
City and nationally:
Greater Philadelphia Cares:
; Phone: 215-564-4544.
; Phone: 215-665-2474.
; Phone: 415-241-6868.
In New Jersey:
; Phone: 609-894-9311, Ext. 1492.
; Phone: 856-663-9356.