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 From left, junior Emily Robinson, sophomore Angelo Hawkins and senior Kennedy Robinson, of Royal Oak High School, make a fleece blanket together during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day service  event at Royal Oak High School last year. This year’s event will take place at Berkley High School.

From left, junior Emily Robinson, sophomore Angelo Hawkins and senior Kennedy Robinson, of Royal Oak High School, make a fleece blanket together during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day service event at Royal Oak High School last year. This year’s event will take place at Berkley High School.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Students, families to spend Martin Luther King Jr. Day serving community

By: Mike Koury, Sarah Wojcik | C&G Newspapers | Published January 7, 2020

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BERKLEY/ROYAL OAK — For the fourth year, the cities of Berkley and Royal Oak will partner to host their annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day community service event.

The MLK Day of Service, billed as “a day on, not a day off,” will be hosted at Berkley High School, 2325 Catalpa Drive, and will begin at 8 a.m. Monday, Jan. 20. Berkley High School and Royal Oak High School alternate as hosts each year.

The goal of the event, as stated by Berkley Schools Director of Communications Jessica Stilger, is to get people inspired by King and to volunteer in his honor. Volunteer opportunities for the day will be found at five off-site locations and at the high school.

In the years since its inception, Stilger said, she has seen firsthand the increase in student involvement at both school districts.

“Every year, we have more and more participation from students from both Royal Oak and Berkley High School,” she said. “This year, students in both schools have been very active on our committee. They’ve been planning activities, really wanting to be part of this event.”

For those volunteering off-site, people will travel to Cass Community Social Services in Detroit, Judson Center locations in Royal Oak and Redford, the Redford Brightmoor Initiative in Detroit, and Yad Ezra in Berkley to help each organization. Stilger said that all five locations have partnered with the event every year.

“They’re organizations that are always looking for helpers and, especially on MLK Day, certainly appreciate the outreach of volunteers,” she said.

On-site at the school, volunteers will be able to make blankets that will be donated to children in the hospital and local veterans. Others can sort through donations that will be packed and sent to organizations. There also will be activities for people to make cards to send to veterans and people on active duty in the military.

“We have a lot of different opportunities,” said Stilger. “You don’t have to come with really any skill set. If you have some time and energy to give, we absolutely could use the volunteers that morning.”

This year in particular, Stilger said, organizers really wanted to make sure the message they’re sharing with everybody is focused on King. They hope to do that by, during the program, playing the “I Have a Dream” speech to get people inspired to do good things in the world and to be kinder to one another.

At the end of the speech, the children in attendance will pick up King’s words to finish the speech for all those in the audience, with the hope that there will be a connection with the younger generation that will propel people to live their lives in a way that considers others.

“We really believe, in our district, about the core of what we’d like our students to be when they graduate are just really good people,” Stilger said. “People who are kind and live some of those principles that Dr. King talked about and lived, and we also believe in giving back to our community. So this is a great opportunity for our community, not just our students, but for the greater community to come together and to give back and to make a difference.”

Royal Oak Community Engagement Specialist Judy Davids said the day of service is the brainchild of former school superintendent Shawn Lewis-Lakin, who was inspired after visiting a similar event in a different district.

“It really has been remarkable to watch this event evolve over the years,” Davids said. “We always get a good turnout. It’s especially satisfying to see all the families that participate. No one is too young or too old to be involved. It is a very welcoming environment. I am sure Dr. King would be proud.”

The event is free to attend, though people are asked to bring items to donate. For unused or unopened items, those can include toilet paper, shampoo, conditioner, gallon Ziploc bags, bath soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, body lotion and dental floss.

Food also will be collected for each district’s food bank, including canned green beans, canned corn, canned fruit, pudding cups and breakfast cereal.

For more information on the event or to sign up for on-site and off-site opportunities, visit www.romi.gov/mlk, email judyd@romi.gov or call (248) 672-5418.

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