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MLK Day 2017: 6 volunteer opportunities in Philly

Use the day to give back to your community

Philly is home to the largest MLK Day service event in the nation.
Photo by Pano Kalogeropoulos for Global Citizen

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service has become a nation-wide event, but did you know that it all started here in Philadelphia? So it’s no wonder that this city is host to the largest service day of its kind in the nation. Last year, 140,000 people gave back to their communities and Philly.

This year, there are hundreds of volunteer opportunities taking place throughout Philadelphia, with Girard College serving as the home base on MLK Day. You can sign up for one or more events over at MLK Day of Service’s website, but here’s a quick primer on six ways you can give back to your neighborhood.

1. Clean up your neighborhood park

There are 34 parks and playgrounds under the Parks and Recreation department that are hosting MLK Day volunteer events. Some sites will involve indoor and outdoor cleanups, some will involve paint jobs, things like that. See if your neighborhood park is on the list—if not, register to help out at another!

2. Donate and participate

The African American Museum is hosting a three-day MLK weekend, chockfull of movie screenings, seminars, performances, and activities. And while general admission is a special $2 this weekend, the museum is asking that all visitors bring canned goods, which will go to the Philabundance Food Drive, or new school supplies, which will be donated to 22nd Annual MLK Day of Services Pre-K School Supplies drive.

On January 16, the National Constitution Center will also serve as a donation hub for new school supplies and books. And stay a while: You can help the museum staff sort everything out before they bring the supplies Philly’s public schools.

3. Get crafty

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is hosting a day of service on January 16, where visitors can create art that will then be delivered by MANNA, a local organization that brings meals to those with illnesses.

4. Cook a meal

A good meal goes a long way, and there are plenty of opportunities around the city that need help cooking, packaging, and delivering food to those in need. MANNA and Repair the World are looking for cooks on Friday, January 13 from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Labor of Love needs volunteers to pack and deliver food to the city’s firefighters. And there’s a long list of other similar opportunities here.

5. Pick up the trash

There’s no doubt that Philly has a trash problem, so every little bit of help counts. The easy way: See litter? Pick it up and dump it in the nearest trash can. The William Way LGBTQ Community Center is also hosting a day-long volunteer event, which includes a Center City and Gayborhood street clean-up, among other activities. Here are 83 more neighborhood clean-ups you can sign up for.

6. Just have a good conversation

Got something to say? So do a lot of other folks. So volunteer your time on MLK Day to listening to what someone else has to say. A number of organizations and communities are hosting discussions on MLK Day, with topics ranging from the changes they want to see in their neighborhoods, the state of minorities in today’s world, and other worthwhile topics. Find a list here, or hey, finally get to know your neighbor across the street.