Winnetka, Community

Annual MLK Jr. Day of Service goes virtual with Sunday workshop, at-home project

Addressing social issues is important, “especially this year,” said Barb Tubekis, the executive director of The Volunteer Center of N.E. Metro Chicago, after a year of racial conflict.

So when Tubekis considered how to proceed with the center’s annual service day amid COVID-19, she knew it was necessary even though it would be different than years past. 

For 15 years, the Winnetka-based nonprofit has hosted a service day in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. The day has attracted anywhere from 400 to 1,000 people volunteers, Tubekis said, all of whom want to get involved, give back and honor Dr. King.

Previously, the volunteers would participate in a variety of service projects in support of numerous area nonprofits.

The Volunteer Center’s current and previous board members pose for a photo with their no-sew blankets at last year’s service day. Blankets are donated to marginalized communities.

This year, there are multiple ways to get involved virtually.

“We knew from the outset that our Martin Luther King Jr. Day was going to be virtual,” Tubekis said. “We were looking for something to do that really addressed social issues this year. With this year in particular, it’s very important. We need to focus on learning and serving.

“Our work has to continue — we all know that.”

The Volunteer Center partnered with HEROS — Healing Everyday Racism in the Schools — to fold in “heavy education,” Tubekis said. HEROS is a working group of students, parents, teachers and neighbors who self-organized in early 2018, according to its website.

HEROS will present a virtual workshop from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 17, on Zoom. It will focus on Dr. King’s 1965 speech in Winnetka, plus steps to take locally to realize his “beloved community,” Tubekis shared in an email. 

There are five breakout rooms during the workshop: affordable housing, local education, hidden stories: researching local history, civic engagement and beginning your anti-racism journey. 

Registration for the free workshop is available here.

Our work has to continue — we all know that.” Barbara Tubekis, Executive Director of The Volunteer Center

Those looking to participate in the center’s signature MLK Day beloved no-sew blanket project can also still do so at home.

The blankets are a project the center originally started in 2005 and gained popularity throughout the years, Tubekis said. 

“We weren’t going to do the blanket project this year,” Tubekis said, “but we started to get all these emails asking about it. We wanted to give [people] something to do. It’s very nice to hear that [this project] has been planted in many families activities on MLK Day and that it’s made a lasting impact.”

Volunteers can purchase fabric for the no-sew, tie blankets from retail stores or buy a blanket kit from the center. Once finished, Tubekis requests the blankets to be dropped off from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday, Jan. 18, or Saturday, Jan. 23, at the Community House in the Pine Street parking lot. Afterward, the blankets will be donated to marginalized communities. 

In addition to the Sunday virtual workshop and blanket project, there are several other opportunities individuals or families can engage in at home. Tubekis put together a comprehensive guide, which is divided into age-appropriate categories on the center’s website

“Our aim is to show people that they can make a difference,” Tubekis said. “That’s why service days like this gather everyone together in a community. It’s sad not to see these people in person this year, but we are thrilled we can still guide people to service on this MLK Day.”

megan bernard
Megan Bernard

Megan Bernard is a co-founder and the managing editor who directs day-to-day journalism of The Record. Megan enjoys writing about restaurants, entertainment and education and is an established human-interest reporter.

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