But to Brandyn White, a student volunteer from Brooklyn College, his day of service at a Harlem elementary school did a lot more for him than any of the people he was trying to help.
“Different schools and community groups are coming together to really make a difference,” said White, 21, a volunteer for New York Cares, which was hosting an outreach event to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“Martin Luther King dedicated his whole life to serving others and giving back to places and people that really needed it. This is a testament to that. This is a school that really does need this type of help and restoration. When it comes to serving the community you can’t really take the day off.”
White was one of 250 volunteers who visited the Harlem school Monday, painting lockers, organizing library books and making care packages.
Emily Allen was supervising volunteers who were making dozens of baby blankets to be given to the New York Foundling organization.
“I was in the era with Martin Luther King,” Allen said. “I was in my teens. I followed the march, the movement. I grew up in that era. So this is a special day for me, not in remembrance of what he did but what we’re moving forward to do, to continue to do, in his legacy.
“It’s not just for a movement. It’s to help others. We work all week. So when I get a day off, I like to be useful. I like to go into the community. I like to see what I can do to help improve that community. We want to show that we care, that there are people out there who are monitoring them and we do care about their welfare and wellbeing.”
Oana Gherman, 31, an ESL teacher from New Jersey, said she was impressed with the turnout.
“I wasn’t expecting so many volunteers,” Gherman said as she painted windows in the cafeteria.
“I think it represents Martin Luther King by pretty much giving up your day off. Because a lot of people are off today. And giving up your day off and to do something for their community. It’s a good feeling. It doesn’t have to have a major significance. It’s just something you should be doing just because you can. You have the time so you don’t have an excuse.”