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MLK Day of Service moves to home version

Despite the obstacles, dedicated members of Flossmoor’s Community Relations Commission weren’t willing to give up on a program that has become a centerpiece of neighborhood generosity.

This year’s “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service: At-Home Edition” provides community members with a month’s worth of volunteer activities they can do alone or with their COVID “bubble.”

Despite the obstacles, dedicated members of Flossmoor’s Community Relations Commission weren’t willing to give up on a program that has become a centerpiece of neighborhood generosity.

This year’s “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service: At-Home Edition” provides community members with a month’s worth of volunteer activities they can do alone or with their COVID “bubble.”

In previous years, the event capitalized on the Monday holiday observing King’s birthday, which many people have off work, by asking community members to volunteer in large group projects.

“Certainly we’re missing that connectivity this year, but it was so important to the members of the Community Relations Commission, the village staff, the board of trustees and the mayor that something happen this year — no matter what,” said Flossmoor spokeswoman Amy Kent. 

“It’s an opportunity to give back to the community in a way that we’ve done year after year.”

Instead of gathering together at village hall and other sites on MLK Day itself, the Flossmoor CRC reimagined this year’s Day of Service as a monthlong slate of volunteer and donation opportunities. 

Here’s a sampling of activities:

  • Make lunches for PADS clients.
  • Collect books and food items for the Jones Center in Chicago Heights.
  • Make DIY bundles for Respond Now, South Suburban Family Shelter.
  • Give blood at the Irwin Center.
  • Make cards for people in nursing homes.
  • Collect supplies for South Suburban Humane Society.
  • Make tie blankets for people with cancer.

A detailed list of activities and how to participate is available at the village website.

CRC member Jackie Riffice, a 32-year Flossmoor resident, said the pandemic forced commission members to brainstorm new, COVID-safe ways to honor MLK Day. 

They considered how the needs of nonprofit organizations have changed in the past year, along with what activities would make volunteers feel both effective and protected.

“We wanted to make sure that the intent of the Day of Service was still honored in the way MLK wanted it to be,” Riffice said. “We also had to figure out how we could have the community make contributions without spreading COVID everywhere.”

The village partners with a number of organizations and businesses each year to make the MLK Day of Service a success. In addition to those already mentioned, this year’s partners include You Matter 2, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. Chi Lambda Lambda, Plan 4 Success, The Bridge Teen Center and Sand Ridge Nature Center.

In offering up their projects, the nonprofits each relate the intention of their project with the legacy of King.

One volunteer opportunity, Kent said, is to act as the point person for neighborhood donations. A person or family could tell their immediate neighbors what they’re collecting, act as a drop-off point, and then bring the donations to the designated site at the end of the month.

Kent also offered a reminder that the organizations involved in the MLK Day of Service operate year-round. So while they have pinpointed projects for Flossmoor’s January event, these nonprofits always need donations and volunteers.

The MLK Day of Service also provides an outlet for H-F community members who miss volunteering and actively improving the lives of their neighbors, Riffice said.

“What we’ve discovered throughout pandemic and through the holidays, especially, is that people really want to help out somewhere,” she said.

“This event lets people know that even in the time of a pandemic, we can still make a difference. It’s not necessarily in a big Broadway kind of way, but we can still do it.”

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