The annual Martin Luther King Day Challenge at the Burlington County Library provided locals with volunteer opportunities
Most people know Jan. 21 as Martin Luther King Day, when schools close in remembrance for a great figure in American history. But his day is also observed as a national day of service, when people across the country come together to volunteer and do some good in their neighborhoods.
The Burlington County Library teamed with the Volunteer Center of Burlington County for the 13th Annual Martin Luther King Day Challenge last Monday to provide an array of opportunities for locals to get involved and give back.
Donations piled up during the challenge for some great local causes. Non-perishable food was collected for Oaks Integrated Food Pantry, Operation Yellow Ribbon collected items for care packages for the troops, and the Burlington County Animal Shelter accepted donations of pet supplies.
Visitors to the event had a chance to explore volunteer opportunities with several organizations that were on hand to share information about the work they do. Several offered volunteer activities people could participate in right there at the library.
“We started the Martin Luther King Day Challenge back in 2007. We just wanted to encourage more activity, and the reason we use the word ‘challenge’ is this is a challenge to do something on MLK day,” said Mike Pippin, coordinator for the Volunteer Center of Burlington County. “The idea was to have it be a volunteer opportunities fair.”
According to Pippin, those looking for opportunities to volunteer their time can contact the volunteer center at (856) 222–9311 ext. 1492 or visit its website at volunteercenterburlingtoncounty.org.
Sandi Capano came to the event seeking volunteers for CONTACT, a free and confidential crisis hotline center.
“We have a sexual assault program, crisis intervention, we even have a line for grieving pet owners,” said Capano. “We’re looking for people to come out and take our training and answer the phones for people in the community who are calling in.”
According to Capano, calls at the center range from lonely people who just want to talk to people at risk or in crisis.
“We’re a very busy center, and we need more volunteers to get all those calls answered,” said Capano.
To volunteer with CONTACT email email@example.com or call (856) 234–5484 ext. 214 to reach Capano.
At a table set up for Friends of the Burlington County Animal Shelter, visitors made cat toys from strips of recycled T-shirts and learned about other ways to volunteer with the shelter. The nonprofit seeks to enhance the lives of shelter animals and help them find homes.
According to event coordinator for the organization, Vicky Freeman, they will be needing volunteers this coming spring to help with an influx of kittens.
“This year, for some reason, there was an overabundance of kittens,” said Freeman.
Volunteers are needed at the shelter to help with walking dogs, grooming, posting pictures and bios of animals and fundraising. For more information about how to get involved with the Friends of the Burlington County Animal Shelter, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the most popular activities available at the event was a card-making craft where children made cards for residents of care facilities throughout Burlington County. Fourth-grade teacher at Twin Hills Elementary in Willingboro, Nicole Gregory, brought several of her students and safety patrollers to the library to volunteer and make cards.
“We try and teach students that it’s not a day off, it should be a day on. For the past 10 years I’ve encouraged my fourth graders and my safety patrollers to come out and do something nice for the community,” said Gregory.