For thousands of people, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is more than time off from work or school. Increasingly, it is embraced as a day of service.
“We see it as a day on and not a day off,” said Alyssa Kozak, development associate in Kansas City for the volunteer organization City Year.
The nonprofit group works with AmeriCorps to place mentors and tutors in urban schools, including five in Kansas City. On Monday, King Day, more than 2,500 AmeriCorps volunteers in cities across the United States will join in a special day of service.
City Year in Kansas City is participating for the first time with a beautification project at the Central Academy of Excellence school at 3221 Indiana Ave. About 200 volunteers, including students, are expected to help create murals depicting prominent African-American leaders.
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The Kansas City Chiefs’ KC Wolf and the Rumble drum corps will kick things off Monday morning along with a visit from Kansas City Councilman Jermaine Reed.
“This is something we would like to continue,” Kozak said of the MLK day-of-service project. “We really believe in young people making a difference.”
At the same time the murals are being created, the Human Rights Campaign will be partnering with the University of Missouri-Kansas City on a service project at the Linwood YMCA, operating out of the Central Academy at 3221 Indiana Ave.
Volunteers will assemble hygiene kits, paint pictures, decorate flower pots and write positive notes to at-risk LGBTQ youths. People wishing to contribute may drop off travel-sized toiletries at the YMCA. Suggestions include shampoo, soap, deodorant, combs, shaving cream, razors and toothpaste. Donations should be labeled “MLK DOS.”
The Metropolitan Community College also encourages a day of service each year with more than 500 volunteer students, faculty, staff and community members. Recipient organizations include ReStore, Hillcrest Transitional Housing, the Franciscan Mission Warehouse, Harvesters food bank, Crittenton Children’s Center, Hillcrest Thrift Shop, KC Pet Project, Raytown Emergency Assistance and Synergy Services.
At least 170 volunteers from Rockhurst University will also give a day of service following a 1 p.m. interfaith prayer service at the Pedro Arrupe Auditorium on campus. The public is invited.
Service recipients in the past have included the reStart homeless shelter, domestic violence shelters, the Troostwood Neighborhood Association and the Heartland Conservation Alliance.
“Our goal is to encourage interaction with the Kansas City community to promote ideals of unity through service and to reflect the Jesuits’ values of service and social justice,” said Rockhurst spokeswoman Alicia Douglas.