NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — All across America and right here in Harlem, volunteers spent the day serving others to honor Martin Luther King Jr.
A wreath was laid at his memorial this morning on the National Mall in Washington, just steps away from where the civil rights leader’s “I Have A Dream” speech that inspired generations.
President Barack Obama also called on Americans to pay tribute by making today a day of service.
“He was like a pioneer, a trail blazer among many other African Americans,” one woman told CBS2’s Emily Smith. “It’s very inspiring to find someone who stands for a cause and doesn’t have that fear, that debilitating fear, to take action.”
Pro basketball player Trahson Burrell spent the day volunteering at the Children’s Museum on Pitkin Ave in Brooklyn. Sports stars teamed up with little ones to make post cards to help teach the values of Dr. King.
“When I was young somebody did it for me, so I am trying to do the same someone did for me,” Burrell said.
At P.S. 194 on West 144th street, hundreds of New York Cares volunteers re-organized the school and worked with students to make it a better place.
One of the first projects that volunteers did was paint the lockers in one of the school’s classrooms.
“I serve to bring happiness, that’s why I serve,” one volunteer said.
It didn’t stop there. The entire library received a makeover with volunteers adding new books to the shelves and taking out boxes of old ones.
“He (Dr. King) would love it. This is definitely something, this is part of the dream these books. High level quality. We want them to be able to enjoy it,” Marcia White said.
New York Cares is expecting around 600 volunteers at nearly 45 projects taking place across the city. All volunteers agree there’s no better way to celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. by reaching out and doing things for others on his day.
“To make a small difference in the world, to help someone out in the local community, might be the only time to you know, smile at them, help them out,” one volunteer said.
At the Mid-Island Y JCC on Long Island, Martin Luther King Jr.’s message was celebrated with action, WCBS 880’s Mike Xirinachs reported.
“Having approximately 250 volunteers come to create packages for those who are experiencing food insecurity and poverty,” Gail Warwick, director of volunteer services, said. “Our theme in honor of Martin Luther King is ‘Dreaming Of.'”
Most of the volunteers were children like Avery Schildhaus.
“By giving back and helping the community that he was really trying to change the world and I think that’s really important,” Schildhaus said.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day typically brings a day of joy and commitment to equality. Sen. Charles Schumer said there is an added importance to the holiday this year, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.
“Because there is still so much bigotry and inequality in the land, Dr. King’s work is not done,” Schumer said.
Speaking at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, both Schumer and Mayor Bill de Blasio both referred to President-elect Trump.
“You can’t set back a country unless the people go along willingly,” de Blasio said. “And we’re not going along willingly.”
De Blasio insisted the city will offer an antidote to Trump’s policies.