Lower volunteer turnout, fewer events in Kansas City on MLK Day of Service

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The annual Day of Service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day gives many people the opportunity to lend a helping hand in honor of the Civil Rights activist.

For some organizations, however, the holiday looked a lot different this year.

Many nonprofits and groups were forced to pivot their traditional plans to accommodate the challenges of the pandemic. Many events saw lower turnout, switched to virtual-only options or even canceled.

Teela Maxwell, program director with Linwood YMCA, said it’s something she’s never seen before.

“We had about 200 volunteers as of last year,” she said. “We are sitting at about 25 volunteers today.”

Some Day of Service participants also noticed significant changes from last year.

“There weren’t hardly anything that you could choose from,” Anita Hickman said. “There were just very, very few events. Most of the stuff was virtual, and I wanted something that was more action oriented.”

Michelle Watley with KC non-profit Shirley’s Kitchen Cabinet said MLK Day of Service changed for her organization, too, but she added there was a sliver of positivity in the change.

Instead of in-person events, the organization provided other ways for the community to give back, including donating to their Amazon wish list or serving using specialized skills like web design or law.

While many organizations faced unprecedented changes, Katrina Morris, who volunteered by picking up trash, said it’s still her duty to serve, even after MLK Day of Service passes.

“With everything going on in our country right now, it’s really important for us to come out and just show support with everybody,” Morris said. “We are all in this together.”

Officials with the Linwood YMCA said another way they’re working to keep events safe is spreading them out throughout the week.

If you want to donate to the efforts of Shirley’s Kitchen Cabinet, you can visit their website.

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