Philadelphians rightfully boast about our city hosting the largest MLK Day of Service in the country. For one day — that hopefully begets many more — citizens all over our region take part in volunteer work to help improve local communities. This year, we painted schools. Raked leaves. Made sandwiches. Provided shelter. Collected books and food and school supplies. Sent messages of hope, advocacy, and support. We learned about Dr. King and his legacy. We came together.
See a few photos we took that capture the spirit of the day below — and be inspired to keep the service going all year round.
Bluford Charter School
On MLK Day 2023, students and volunteers representing YouthBuild Philly worked at Bluford elementary to revitalize the school’s common areas and create murals. Here, two student YouthBuild Philly volunteers paint “I AM THE DREAM.” Bluford recently lost its charter because of poor building conditions and is returning to a Philadelphia School District community school.
Here, YouthBuild Philly volunteers paint a mural that quotes a speech by Vice President Kamala Harris. A portrait of Harris will accompany the quote on this particular wall at Bluford School in Carroll Park.
Students, staff, and volunteers painting the walls in the entrance of the Bluford elementary school. Other work YouthBuild performed on the MLK Day of Service: creating learning aid kits and building a gardening infrastructure.
Eastern State Penitentiary
For MLK Day 2023, the historic Eastern State Penitentiary hosted a day of speeches, children’s activities, and voter registration to honor Civil Rights heroes.
Jerome Loach (standing, right), supervisor of education and partnerships at Eastern State Penitentiary, introduces speaker Shakaboona Marshall (seated, left) co-founder of Human Rights Coalition. Marshall spoke on the legacy of Frederick Douglass and helped kick off a day of honoring activists including Angela Y. Davis, Malcolm X, and Ida B. Wells.
Unitarian Society of Germantown
(Left to right) Lynne Kalish, Celeste Walters, and Mark Washington pose for a photo at the Unitarian Society of Germantown. MLK Day volunteers spent cooked meals, packed lunches, cleaned up the neighborhood, and wrorte letters in and around the nondenominational Mt. Airy church.
Jon Cohen (far right) instructs Unitarian Society of Germantown volunteers Sam Stormont, Jeffrey Jaeger, and Reverend Cheryl M. Walker (far to near) before painting the foyer of Interim House, a residential treatment center for women struggling with mental health and / or drug abuse in Northwest Philadelphia.
Paul Teti packs lunch bags. Volunteers spent hours preparing snacks and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to fill hand-decorated bags.
Nadja Peter (left) and Susie Bash write letters to Pennsylvania legislators urging them to act on social justice issues including gun violence, mass incarceration, and health care.
Caribbean Community in Philadelphia
A community member receives a care package that includes an at-home Covid test, mask, sanitary gloves, condoms, and a packet of health information at the Caribbean Community in Philadelphia‘s street-side stands near the Olney Transportation Center. The Caribbean Community in Philadelphia, founded by Miranda Alexander, partnered with Temple University, the African-Caribbean Cancer Consortium, and the African Diaspora Health Initiative to offer free health screenings and free health resources on the 2023 MLK Day of Service.
(Left to right) volunteers Trisha Phan, Frankie Tisdale, Sarena Vogelong, and Carolena Muno organize the health resource stand and prepare to hand out materials for the Caribbean Community in Philadelphia.
Germantown Friends School
Students and parents joined together at the Germantown Friends School day of service. Pictured here: Families make and package sandwiches for the Whosoever Gospel Mission and Germantown Community Fridge.
In another workshop, the Germantown Friends School community sewed scarves and hats for several local missions, including the Whosoever Gospel Mission. Spread across stations, students and adults worked together to trace designs, cut fabric, sew on the machine, fray, bead, and decorate the hats and scarves.
Royal, 11, inspires his baseball teammates to pack and distribute backpacks of essential items for Philadelphians in need through Cinco Cares, the mission-driven organization he created. The group packed 96 bags and then handed them out to people who came for a meal at Chosen 300 Ministries at 1186 Spring Garden Street. (Follow @cinco_cares for more.)
RELATED STORIES ABOUT DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.Dorothy Beasley and Betty Hightower pose for a photo at Eastern State Penitentiary’s MLK Day event. Photo by Theo Wyss-Flamm.