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The Family Guide to Philly MLK Day of Service Celebrations

Honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's legacy with volunteer work and more.

On January 15, we celebrate and reflect on the incredible legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While the kids may be home from school, this is not just any day off: Philly is the birthplace of the MLK Day of Service, and there are lots of ways to observe the holiday, from family festivals to volunteer opportunities all over the city.

 

If you’d like to seize the opportunity this year to help your kids understand King’s ideas — and the broader concept of helping others in his memory — here are some family-friendly options.

Martin Luther King Day of Service Community Volunteer Projects

January 15, various locations throughout Philadelphia and suburbs

 

No matter your neighborhood, age, or physical abilities, there is a service project for you. This very helpful website created for the Philadelphia region’s MLK Day of Service has a comprehensive database of all the service projects in the area, and you can constrain your search to specifically include kid-friendly projects. These take places all over, including various places of worship, community centers, and schools. Projects include everything from neighborhood cleanup to panel discussions to cooking and organizing donations for neighbors in need. Bonus: they also created a free printable MLK Day coloring book for kids!

MLK Day of Service with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation

January 15, various locations throughout Philadelphia

 

As part of the Martin Luther King Day of Service, you can volunteer to help beautify one of Philadelphia’s many parks and recreation centers. See the map created by PPR in the link to choose a volunteer site. Maybe it’s your neighborhood playground, or maybe a beloved environmental center like Pennypack on the Delaware. Wherever you chose, you will be contributing to your community in a way that’s very visible and understandable even for small children.

Cradles to Crayons

This charity accepts donations year-round, but holds a special drive each January, with extra pickup spots on the MLK holiday. Families can volunteer at the organization’s Conshohocken Giving Factory, too.

MLK Weekend Celebration at the African American Museum in Philadelphia

January 12, 7 pm — January 15, 5 pm

African American Museum in Philadelphia, 701 Arch St., Philadelphia

 

The celebration starts Friday night with “Passion, Progress & Pulchritude,” an evening of MLK-inspired poetry and music. Saturday through Monday will have plenty of interactive and enlightening arts activities, performances and workshops, including face painting and balloon animals. On Monday, participate in the Citizens Bank Scavenger Hunt and Book Giveaway. Admission will be free on Friday, then just $2 the rest of the weekend.

The Philadelphia Orchestra’s Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute Concert

January 15, 1:30 pm

Girard College Chapel, 2101 S. College Ave., Philadelphia

 

This free 90-minute concert combines the traditions of African-American culture and Western classical music. The program includes Samuel Barber’s classic “Adagio for Strings” performed to excerpts from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech by speaker Charlotte Blake Alston, as well as other uplifting pieces. Tickets go live on the Philadelphia Orchestra’s website on January 9, so don’t miss out! If you can’t make the show, you can listen to the live radio broadcast on WRTI (90.1 FM or wrti.org).

Please Touch Museum’s MLK Day Celebration

January 15, 10 am — 5 pm

Please Touch Museum, 4231 Avenue of the Republic, Philadelphia

 

Photograph by Laura Swartz

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision through a day of art and stories. Create art projects, learn about “superheroes among us,” and attend a very special storytime led by author and illustrator Rashad Davis including a book signing afterward. End your day with a Peace Parade, when everyone will march around the museum and sing of world peace and unity.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service at Philadelphia Museum of Art

January 15, 10 am –3 pm

Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia

 

The art museum is usually closed on Mondays, but on MLK Day it’s not just open but is offering Pay What You Wish admission for the day. Kids can create art in the Great Stair Hall that will be delivered along with nourishing meals to those in need by MANNA. At 11:30, there will be a youth-focused conversation on how Dr. King’s legacy can help inspire today’s social movements.

Martin Luther King Day of Service at the Franklin Institute

January 15, 10 am— 5 pm

The Franklin Institute, 222 N. 20th St., Philadelphia

Relive Dr. King’s powerful delivery of “I Have a Dream” featured on screens throughout the day in the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial. Local spoken word poet Ron Cook will deliver a poignant tribute to Dr. King, and visitors are encouraged to turn their passion for science into action through various citizen science activities throughout the day, including coloring and a scavenger hunt for younger kids.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Family Festival

January 15, noon — 4 pm

Woodmere Art Museum, 9201 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia

 

This free event offers activities for kids, including storytelling, an introduction to the Philly Children’s March’s letter-writing project, and the chance to see the museum’s latest exhibit, “Jerry Pinkney: Martin Luther King Jr. and Great American Heroes.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Weekend at Eastern State Penitentiary 

January 13, 11:30 am — January 15, 5 pm

Eastern State Penitentiary, 2027 Fairmount Ave., Philadelphia

 

Eastern State Penitentiary commemorates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his 1963 Letter from Birmingham Jail with special readings and opportunities to connect with the text. There will be readings three times a day performed by actors, youth readers, and community leaders all three days of the long weekend. On Monday, January 15, children (ages 7-12) and their families can create art in response to themes found in the letter, an activity created in partnership with Art Sanctuary.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service at the National Constitution Center

January 15, 9:30 am

National Constitution Center, 525 Arch St., Philadelphia

 

The National Constitution Center has a full day of community service projects, special performances, and fun for the whole family; along with special $5 admission courtesy of Macy’s. Special storytimes will take place in the Grand Hall Lobby, along with an all-day craft center where kids can create “I Have a Dream” mobiles. There will also be a number of live performances, including a passionate reading of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech performed by local actors and students. In the spirit of service, the museum is organizing the donation of books and school supplies for Philadelphia school students. Visitors will be invited to help museum staff and Alex Holley of FOX 29’s “Good Day Philadelphia” to sort the supplies to deliver to classrooms throughout the city.

MLK Day at the National Liberty Museum 

January 15, 10 am–5 pm

National Liberty Museum, 321 Chestnut St., Philadelphia

 

Explore how everyone can “Live Like a Hero” and enjoy a variety of civil rights-inspired activities like an “I Have a Dream” craft corner, a Civil Rights scavenger hunt through the museum, and a film screening about Thurgood Marshall’s triumph in Brown v. Board of Education. In the afternoon, kids can participate in the museum’s first Cultural Express meeting which aims to explore different cultures to break down barriers and stop hate. Admission to the museum is “pay what you wish” all day.

MLK Family Day at the National Museum of American Jewish History

January 15, 10 am — 5 pm

101 South Independence Mall East, Philadelphia

 

Honor Dr. King’s legacy with a day filled with family-friendly performances,  arts and crafts activities, spotlight talks about social justice, and more.

Martin Luther King Day of Service at Penn

January 15, 9:30 am — 12:30 pm

University of Pennsylvania, Houston Hall, 3417 Spruce St., Philadelphia

 

Kids can help students, alumni, and other community members in service projects like putting together and personalizing kindness bags of toiletries for women’s shelters, painting commemorative banners,  listening to stories and songs about Dr. King’s life, and creating gifts that will be donated to those in need in the West Philadelphia area.

Radnor Township School District District-Wide Day of Service

January 15, 10 — 11:30 am

Radnor High School, 130 King of Prussia Road, Wayne

 

RTSD students and their parents are welcome to participate in the district’s second annual day of service.

HomeCooked Break Camp

January 15, 10 am — 1 pm, 2 — 5 pm

HomeCooked, 1 Paoli Plaza, Paoli

 

HomeCooked is adding a service component to its regular school break camp. They will supply extra ingredients for everyone to use to make extra pans of shepherd’s pie which will be donated to local families in need. Kids will also make a snack and a fun dessert to bring home!

Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Elmwood Park Zoo

January 15, 10 am — 4 pm

1661 Harding Blvd., Norristown

 

Get free admission all day at Elmwood Park Zoo and attend a special animal education program called “I Have a Dream.”

Charlotte Blake Alston: All Together Now—Martin Luther King Day of Service and Art

January 14, 1 — 3 pm

James A. Michener Art Museum, 138 S. Pine St., Doylestown

 

Join storyteller Charlotte Blake Alston as she shares traditional and contemporary stories and songs from African and African-American oral and cultural traditions with engaging narration and instruments. Then create an All Together Now hexagon using a variety of art materials in the Education Center, which will be displayed in the Michener Education Gallery in the All Together Now: The Hexagon Project exhibition.

Seafarin’ Saturday

January 13, 1 1 am — 1 pm

Independence Seaport Museum, 211 S. Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia

Celebrate the upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. Day by writing your hopes and dreams for the future, then display your message on the museum’s wall for everyone to see.

Lower Merion School District

January 12, 1 — 3 pm

Lower Merion High School Cafeteria, 315 E. Montgomery Ave., Ardmore

 

LMSD is working with several charities for this event, including Cradles to Crayons and the Ronald McDonald House.

 

 

Lead photograph by C. Smyth for Visit Philadelphia.

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