Monday, January 20, 2014

Lexington Day of service planned for MLK Day

Sam Zales is hoping to change Martin Luther King Jr. Day from a "day of listening to a day of doing" in Lexington by encouraging volunteerism and service in honor of the slain civil rights leader.

For 20 years Lexington has commemorated Martin Luther King Jr. Day by marching down Massachusetts Avenue from the Battle Green to the Cary Memorial Building to replicate the famous 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom led by King. This year there will still be the march and the annual keynote speakers, but in addition Zales is organizing a day of service where volunteers help those in the community who need aid the most.

The first MLK Day of Service is presented by the Lexington commUNITY group, which has organized the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in town for the last two decades.

"This is an important holiday for me," said Zales, a commUNITY organizer for the past decade. "My grandmother was civil rights activist, and I want to continue the focus of helping people who are less well-off."

More than 120 people have volunteered to help at organizations in Lexington and surrounding communities during the first Lexington MLK Day of Service on Monday, Jan. 20. Those interested in participatin can register in advance or can simply meet on the Battle Green at 11 a.m.

There are four opportunities for organized volunteering.

Some volunteers will go to the Waltham YMCA, which will open its doors to homeless and low-income families, treating them to a day of sports, games and food. Other volunteers will make Valentine’s Day cards for veterans, hospitalized children and the homeless or the volunteers will have lunch with residents at one of the senior citizens' complexes in Lexington.

"Martin Luther King has a special place in YMCA history," said Waltham YMCA Executive Director Jack Fucci. "Before he was a pastor or held the March on Washington he was a kid at the Y. We believe some of the character building traits of the Y are really important and we want to expose as many families to the Y and give them their special day."

Usually organized the Sunday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, this year the ceremony and day of service will be on the Monday federal holiday. Zales said he’s glad this year’s festivities are on the actual day of remembrance as students will be out of school and more families can participate in the activities.

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