Royal Oak, Berkley MLK service day pairs message with action

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published January 10, 2017


ROYAL OAK — After attending a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in Walled Lake last year, Royal Oak Schools Superintendent Shawn Lewis-Lakin made a vow to himself that he would not let another year pass without the community having an appropriate event to recognize the holiday.

With the help of other like-minded people, and planning that began in June, the superintendent’s vision was put into reality.

MLK Jr. Service Day 2017 will take place Monday, Jan. 16, inside the Royal Oak High School auditorium, 1500 Lexington Blvd. Admission is free with a donation from the needed-items list.

“I am very grateful for the community and school partners who have been a part of the planning for this,” Lewis-Lakin said. “I very much hope we fill Royal Oak High School on Jan. 16.”

The collaborative event is presented by the Royal Oak and Berkley school districts, the cities of Royal Oak and Berkley, and the Woodward Corridor Clergy Association.

Event organizers said that residents of Berkley, Royal Oak and other neighboring communities are invited to make it a “day on” instead of a day off during the annual holiday honoring the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The program will open at 7:30 a.m. with a continental breakfast followed by keynote speaker, the Rev. Faith Fowler, pastor of Cass Community United Methodist Church and executive director of Cass Community Social Services.

Attendees are then invited to participate in on- and off-site service projects beginning at 9:15 a.m.

“We wanted to not just have an event that encouraged people to use it as a day of service, but actually give them the opportunity,” Lewis-Lakin said. “And we know that for some people, they have to go to work or they have other commitments that day, but our hope is that by emphasizing service and providing a day of service and opportunities to do service, that we might inspire people who aren’t able to do it that day to actually do it on another day.”

On-site opportunities include making smile dolls for Operation Smile, preparing hygiene kits for Cass Community Social Services and assembling toilet paper kits for distribution by the Redford Brightmoor Initiative.

Those interested in participating in an off-site opportunity would ride a provided bus to the preselected locations. Ending times vary, but it is anticipated that the bus would return to Royal Oak High School between noon and 2 p.m.

Off-site service project opportunities include cleaning and redecorating the Wish Room and sorting store donations at the Judson Center; renovating the Boys & Girls Clubs of Oakland and Macomb Counties learning center; completing kitchen and mud mat projects at Cass Community Social Services; and deep cleaning the Redford Brightmoor Initiative free store and gutting a neighborhood home.

Lewis-Lakin said the biggest need right now is for the off-site projects.

“We’ve told some of our partners — who are developing projects for us to come and help them with — that we’re going to deliver people to accomplish real tasks that need to be done, particularly the Redford Brightmoor project,” he said. “We’re looking for people who are willing to go to the SignUpGenius and make that commitment so that we can help these organizations help others.”

A sign-up sheet for the service projects is available by visiting, and registration is required for all portions of the event.

Royal Oak Community Engagement Specialist Judy Davids said that the city is excited to partner in the event and said the happening is flexible so that people can  attend any portion of the day’s activities that fits into their schedules. They can even just drop off donations of needed items.

Davids said the event is an opportunity for the city to show off some of its more than 50 service clubs and opportunities available throughout the entire year.

“So if you are thinking beyond Jan. 16, and thinking of doing some volunteer or service work in the city, we have service clubs that are faith-based, nature-based, education-based, history-based, you name it,” she said. “If you want to do more to make Royal Oak a better place to live, there’s plenty of opportunity.”

Berkley Schools Assistant Superintendent Mary Beth Fitzpatrick said that she hopes the event promotes a pledge for year-round service.

“This is more the spirit of giving back, and being in the community and of course kicking it off on the very appropriate MLK Day,” she said. “But, we also know that the spirit of it has to go well beyond a single day a year, and so that’s why we really want to promote folks doing what they can in their community all year long.”

Fitzpatrick sits on the MLK Jr. Service Day 2017 planning committee and has been working on the project with BAAPN — Berkley African American Parent Network — to help promote the importance of the holiday and the hands-on aspect.

She said the district’s participation in the Jan. 16 event complements Berkley Schools Gives Back Day, which debuted last year as more than 100 staff members went to community parks and performed projects for the city’s parks and recreation department.

“So we see this as just another extension of a way that our staff and now broader community and families can give back to the community as well,” she said.

For more information or to sign up, visit

Needed Items
• Gallon Ziploc bags
• Soap
• Shampoo
• Toothbrushes
• Toothpaste
• Deodorant
• Washcloths
• Razors
• Toilet Paper
• Plastic Shopping Bags
• Diapers
• Pull-ups
• New clothing for kids
• New hats for kids
• New gloves for kids
• Puzzles for kids
• Games for kids