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Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by giving back

Posted at 1:32 PM, Jan 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-21 19:21:44-05

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Many families in South Florida celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday by giving back to their own communities.

On Monday morning, about 700 volunteers with the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County conducted service projects across the county.

About 250 of those volunteers packed snacks for children at the Boys and Girls club, planted trees, cleaned up the grounds and put a fresh coat of paint on the facility.

"There’s a lot of boys and girls going to bed hungry in our community," said Juliana Gendelman, Chair of the Jewish Volunteer Center. "And if we can put a few extra snacks in the backpacks and make this place extra special, just add that extra layer of love for these kids, we will do whatever we can."

Other service projects included feeding the homeless, a beach cleanup, and walking rescue dogs.

Organizers said the volunteer work is especially important for the children to learn about Dr. King’s commitment to service.

"And it really starts at a young age, a lot of kids out there who are super lucky," Gendelman said. "We want these kids to know about Dr. King and know about the life that he led. And to do what they can to give back. Community above self to help those in need and to help those who are not as fortunate as they might be."

The work doesn’t stop here. The Jewish Federation is planning more service projects to help homebound seniors and shelter animals in the coming months.

"Really instilling those values at a young age. We have kids of all ages and adults of all ages. It’s really special to see these different groups come together," said Gendelman.

The day of service culminated with a celebration at Currie Park in West Palm Beach. It included rides for kids, a BBQ lunch, and awards ceremony and service.

Melissa Hudson, program manager for the Jewish Volunteer Center, said it was great to see everything come together.

"It's creating meaningful experiences for the volunteers, and then for the people they're supporting and that just pays it forward and has a ripple effect county wide and community wide," said Hudson.

Volunteer Rafiki Beecher helped collect donations and make care packages for the homeless.

"Just seeing that look on their face and like, oh my gosh this is for us, it really makes the world of difference," Beecher said.

"There's a lot of homeless that live here in the park so we did toiletries, socks, shampoo, things we take for granted, and they need extra of," said Hudson.

"We're part of one community," Gendelman said. "One community that needs to be tolerant, that needs to focus on the good, that needs to find ways to give back to community, to help those who are less fortunate."

Poet Kadeidra Ward spoke at the event about how far we've come for equality, and how far we still have to go.

"We still struggle with things that happened over 51 years ago," said Ward. "And for us to still be able to gather together to overcome these things means a lot and to be a part of that voice absolutely means everything."

Click here to learn more about volunteering opportunities.