Martin Luther King Jr. Honored with Service Projects

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, more than 200 students, parents and teachers in all three divisions honored the work and legacy of the civil rights activist by serving nearby communities and organizations. 

"I felt it was really important to be not just a day of service but a day of education and of bringing our community together," said Sharon Ahram, assistant director of PC's Center for Public Purpose. Many of the service projects focused on the East Falls and Germantown communities, she said, "so that they recognize that Penn Charter is an ally and a supporter and so that we can build a community with them."  

At SHARE Food Program's cavernous warehouse, Middle School students, teachers and parents boxed nonperishable groceries for families alongside Philadelphia firefighters and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. SHARE, which partners with local food cupboards to provide fresh, healthy food to underserved communities, is a regular service site for Penn Charter students, who employ teamwork and assembly-line efficiency.

Lower School students and parents traveled to PSPCA (Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) to make dog treats and cat toys and to give the cats a little attention. During a tour of the large facility, they were introduced to two horses that were rescued. The children also got tips on how to care for pets and how to approach someone else's dog. 

Other Lower School students stayed on campus with their parents and sorted scores of bags of clothes, linens and stuffed animals donated by the PC community to be delivered to the Narenj Tree Foundation, which sends clothing and supplies to Syrian refugees.

"I think this project was important so that students could became aware of what's going on in the world and know that we can be thousands of miles away and still make a difference," Ahram said.

Face to Face, a regular service partner of Penn Charter, hosted a group of Upper School students, who spent the morning in the kitchen preparing an afternoon meal. Germantown's Face to Face began as a soup kitchen and evolved into a multi-service organization offering health, legal and social services.

At Mifflin School in East Falls, Middle School volunteers helped clean, sort, organize and paint. In PC's dining hall, others made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for Germantown's Whosoever Gospel Mission, using 35 loaves of bread.

And in the IdeaLab, Upper School students sewed pillowcases for One House at a Time (OHAAT), which provides beds for children. Charlotte Murray, a junior, leads an ongoing project supported by other students, which she calls PillowKases for Kids. "The kids who receive a free mattress [from OHAAT] also receive a pillowcase," she said. "They enjoy picking out their own pillowcase because each one has a different pattern or print."

The day began with a presentation on Martin Luther King Jr. by James E. Newton, professor emeritus of Black American Studies at the University of Delaware.

Even those who didn't attend a particular project on MLK Jr. Day had opportunities to support the day's work by donating new crayons, markers and coloring books for Turning Points for Children; supplies for the handmade cat toys; and clothing and linens for the Narenj Tree Foundation.
"Our service work," Ahram said, "was very true to Martin Luther King's beliefs that we should love one another and that we have a responsibility to support one another regardless of race, religion, class or distance."
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