The low temperatures fell just short of the record, but on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service the Penn Charter community set its own record for participation. About 300 students, parents, faculty and staff served organizations that provide food, housing, education, books, shoes and baby supplies to those who need them.

They made 190 care packages for the Whosoever Gospel Mission and Turning Points for Children; dozens of birthday and get well cards for residents of Atria Senior Living Center; 400 sandwiches packed into decorated lunch bags, along with fruit and homemade baked goods, for I'm Feeding Philly.

They stuffed, sealed and addressed envelopes to spread the word about Habitat for Humanity to those who might need housing; created comic strips for patients of St. Christopher's Hospital for Children; made book totes for Tree House Books; packaged soaps as a fundraiser for St. Raymond's House; cut denim and created patterns for Sole Hope Shoes, which makes shoes for people in South America; and planted seedlings for Sanctuary Farm, which the sixth grade will transfer into garden beds in the spring as part of the grade's food insecurity project. 

Off-campus, Lower School students sorted and boxed food at Share Food Program (with Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, shown right); Middle School prepared a meal and organized a pantry at Depaul House; and students in grades 6-12 engaged in historic preservation of archival photographs at Historic Rittenhouse Town, prepared and served a meal at Face to Face, and worked with seniors to support technology use and play games at Atria Senior Living.

Before the work began, state representative Chris Rabb (PA-200th), keynote speaker, shared his thoughts on Martin Luther King Jr. "I don't want anyone to think we celebrate Dr. King because he was perfect. Or because he did it alone." Rabb reminded the audience that King had joined the Montgomery bus boycott when it was already in motion and led by women.

"Young people," said Rabb (shown below) addressing students. "Dr. King was not a born leader. He struggled. He struggled with depression. But he got out of bed; he faced his fears." And King surrounded himself with people who helped him move forward, Rabb added. "The goal here ... is to acknowledge that we will stumble, but we are still moving forward."

Alyson Goodner, director of PC's Center for Public Purpose, which organizes the day, was inspired by the school's response. "As our fifth grade introduced Representative Rabb, they asked us, 'What mark will you make on the world?' Our community responded to this with a profound energy and focus," she said. "It was clear that our PC community is engaged, wanting to learn about the most pressing social issues in our city, and active, leaning in to support the work of our wonderful community partners."

One of those partners is the Rev. Bob Emberger, executive director of the Whosoever Gospel Mission, who expressed his thanks. "I know that even with one day of service we can all get a life-changing glimpse of the impact of Martin Luther King Jr.'s beloved community as we gather together in our common humanity reflecting the goodness of God to help, encourage and build up one another."

The day's good works wrapped up with lunch and reflection as the community considered teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. See more photos.