Despite COVID, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is still a day of service

Here are some suggestions for making a difference in the Will County community

For the second year in a row, Will County’s multi-agency MLK Day of Service event is canceled.

Kristine Schlismann, director of community and alumni relations for Joliet Township High School District 204, said in an email Monday that the last event was held in 2020.

District 204 is one of the partner agencies for the day of service.

“Due to [COVID-19], we did not hold the event last year and will not hold it this year for the same reason,” Schlismann said in the email. “We fully intend to hold the event in 2023 if conditions allow.”

According to the AmeriCorps website, MLK Day is held on the third Monday on January and is the only federal holiday “designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities.”

AmeriCorps has led the effort for the past 25 years, its website said.

Three in-person events will be offered locally this year – and the Forest Preserve District of Will County is hosting all three Monday, and all three are outdoor events.

“MLK Day of Service is a great way to engage with your fellow community members while honoring the legacy of Dr. King,” Emily Kenny, the Forest Preserve District’s volunteer services supervisor, said in an email Thursday. “It is a day that empowers individuals to take action and hopefully will inspire them beyond the holiday to make a positive impact in their community year-round. You can make a world of difference in just a few hours of time.”

A resource management day will be held from 8 a.m. to noon at Theodore Marsh preserve. Participants will cut and haul invasive trees and shrubs. Dress for outdoor work and the day’s weather, which includes long pants, closed-toe shoes and work gloves, according to the forest preserve website.

Two sessions of little cleanup also will be held along the Joliet Junction Trail. Children may attend if accompanied by a parent or guardian, the website said. The forest preserve will provide all equipment and materials. Participants should dress for that day’s weather, according to the website.

The first cleanup session will be held 10 a.m. to noon. Meet at the Abri Credit Union, 2350 W. McDonough St. in Joliet.

The second session will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Meet at the Carlson Holmquist-Sayles Funeral Home and Crematory, 2320 Black Road in Joliet.

All volunteers and groups must register in advance. Call Volunteer Services Supervisor Emily Kenny at 815-722-7364 or email ekenny@fpdwc.org.

Even if you can’t attend one of these three cleanup events, find another way to give back, even if it’s not Monday.

For instance, the United Way of Will County has an online volunteer center. This page lists agencies and the types of volunteers they need. Visit that page at uwwill.galaxydigital.com/need.

In a 2012 Herald-News story promoting the MLK Day of Service of 2012, R. Dale Evans, social services coordinator for the Housing Authority of Joliet at the time, said Martin Luther King Jr. once said life’s most urgent question was, “What are you doing for others?”

Evans stressed in that story the importance of doing something “in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King,” The reason Evans gave still applies in 2022, perhaps more so.

“Right now is a tough time for many people,” Evans said in the 2012 story. “But it’s in giving that we receive.”