Make MLK Day More Than Just A Day Off Of Work

Make MLK Day More Than Just A Day Off Of Work


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is:
What Are You Doing For Others?

Monday, January 21, 2013 is a Federal holiday and marks the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday.  Not so shockingly, both my husband and daughter are off of work and school.  This may come as a surprise to both of them, but we are not spending this day in the same way we spent their winter breaks: sleeping in, playing “Rock, Paper, Scissors” for who has to clean up the dog-poop in the backyard and playing video games. This year, we are going to do something meaningful with the day and serve our community.

According to The Corporations for National and Community Service and The King Center, “People of all ages, backgrounds and abilities are encouraged to serve on King Day, and to make the day the beginning of an ongoing commitment to a cause that is meaningful to them and address a need in their communities.”

Since the title of this blog is “A WINDY CITY MOMMA” I thought that I would come up with a good list of things to do in the Chicagoland area where we might find some of our friends volunteering their time too.

In Highland Park, IL: The Multi-Generational Celebration at the Highland Park Recreation Center from 10 am to 1 pm.  (1207 Park Ave West Highland Park IL.) The Highland Park event will feature the following activities & opportunities:

  1. Aaron Freeman, radio commentator, comedian, and author will be giving his comedic twist to MLK’s Dream from 10:30-11:15
  2.  Edgewood Middle School Chorus will sing songs of freedom – 10:00am-10:30am
  3. Decorate a canvas tote bag and donate a gently used picture book or easy reader to place inside. The book bags will be given to the North Shore Health Clinic for distribution to their young patients
  4. Assemble toiletries for local shelters
  5. Decorate squares for Project Linus quilts going to hospitalized children
  6. Color flowers and make flower pots for Highland Park Hospital
  7. Write letters to soldiers and children of the military (Hero Packs)
  8. Braeside PTO: Make Valentine’s for soldiers (Operation Support Our Troops)
  9. Reach for Change: Color paper dolls to raise awareness about the devastation that has occurred because of the Genocide in Darfur and throughout Africa
  10. Nurture: A non-profit dedicated to improving the nutrition and health of limited resource families. Participants will help scoop non-perishable soup ingredients into bags which they will label and include recipes for the Moraine Twp. Food Bank.
  11. North Shore Health Clinic will have information on their services and offer Blood Sugar screenings
  12. Heller Nature Center will make garland wreaths
  13. Highwood Fire Dept. will provide Fire Safety coloring books & CPR demonstrations
  14. Puppy Mill Project: Make flannel dog toys to donate to Tails of Hope—a no kill shelter.

And several other activities including story reading, decorating flip flops for youth in India and an activity by the Rotary Club of Highland Park & Highwood. Truly, there is something for everyone!

City of Chicago: This year, the City of Chicago is partnering with Jean De Lafayette Elementary School.  Over 500 volunteers from across the city will come together to transform and beautiful Lafayette with murals, painting, and construction projects.

Details for the following Chicago activities can also be found at the following site:

  • Cooking Matters Illinois Hosts A Shopping Matters Training Tour (3333 South Iron Street, Chicago, IL 60608 – January 19, 2013)  Continuing a tradition the First Family began four years ago, Inauguration weekend will begin with a National Day of Service on Saturday, January 19th that honors the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Volunteers across the country are organizing service events in all 50 states


If you are out and about in Chicago, here are some of the activities I found thanks to (*Note: Not all of the dates are 1/21.  Some of these activities occur over the weekend)

I am so excited for all of the activities occurring in honor of Dr. King!  Even though the weather might be frightfully cold this weekend, getting involved by volunteering your time and  learning about Dr. King’s legacy may hit the spot and at least warm your heart (if not your hands!)


Black Friday! Big Retailers Gone Wild!

Black Friday! Big Retailers Gone Wild!

It’s Black Friday! Let’s Shop!

What does it mean to be thankful?  For my family, we embrace the predictable practices of watching the parades in the morning and getting together with friends and family for a fabulous meal in the evening.  If we are back in Baltimore and I can be with my older sister, we get up early Friday morning to go holiday shopping and take advantage of the “door buster” sales.  We know that the bigger retailers (Walmart, Kmart, Macy’s, Target etc.) will have the greatest deals and discounts early in the morning.

But how early is really too early and will it really make much of a difference whether we shop at 7:00 a.m. or 12 midnight?

This year, the effects of Black Friday are hitting home.  My friend, Sophie, is scheduled to work tonight.  First, she’ll celebrate Thanksgiving with her family.  I am sure that she will relish spending time with her many nieces, grandnieces and grand nephews.  Sophie, a widow, is 74 years old.  Spending time with family, especially on holidays like Thanksgiving is a rare treat.

But after the food has been eaten, the desserts consumed and the left overs parceled out amongst the different households, instead of going home, Sophie will go to work.

Sophie has worked at one of the major department stores for over twenty years.  At first she worked there because she wanted the employee discount, now she works there because she genuinely needs the money.  Unlike many people her age, Sophie is a spry and energetic woman. I’m sure that she has an occasional ache and pain but  she rarely complains about them.  However, she has slowed down a bit recently and gets tired more easily than she did a few years ago.

Tonight this senior citizen is working the mid-night to 10:00 a.m. shift at a suburban department store because, she says, she has to.

Wait? She has to?  I thought that employees LOVED working the Black Friday early morning hours, right?

According to Brad Tuttle’s recent article in Moneyland Time entitled Do Extended Black Friday Hours Actually Increase Sales?,  “…the decision makers at many national stores are taking a literal approach by actually making Black Friday longer than a day, with extended sale hours that actually start on Thursday. The idea is: If something works, then more of it will work better.”  According to many retail analysts, this justification is not accurate.  “Instead of increasing sales, extended hours tend to just redistribute sales over a longer time period. Some consumers may be happier with the extended hours—preferring to shop at midnight on Thanksgiving night rather than 4 a.m. on Friday morning—but they’re unlikely to spend more overall.”

If the impact of “door busting sales” or early incentives isn’t drawing consumers into stores like they used to or impact spending, then why are large chain stores ruining Thanksgiving for many workers by making them come in on a national holiday?

Tuttle’s answer is clear: “We all feel the need to keep up with the Joneses, and no one likes to be left behind.” And that brings me back to Sophie’s story.

Because department stores and big retailers don’t want to be “left behind”, the executives and managers are willing to do what they feel is necessary to ensure that there is staff even when the customers don’t show, say at 2:00 a.m.  Sophie told me that she has never been asked to work on Thanksgiving in the past but has always volunteered to work on “Black Friday” because she gets “time and a half” also known as “holiday pay.” For someone on a fixed a budget, she explains “I can make a lot more working the day after a holiday than at other times of the year.”  But this year, she was told that she HAS to work on Thanksgiving and that all employees are expected to take a shift.  As a way to compensate their employees, the store will offer “box lunches” to the staff.  When I reacted somewhat sarcastically to her explanation, Sophie told me that this was the first year that store has ever given ANYTHING to the staff who work the graveyard shift on Thanksgiving.

I have to be honest, until this year, I never really thought about how staff feel regarding Black Friday.  I figured, like me, there was a certain excitement to shopping at midnight.  And Sophie agreed that being in the store when it opens at mid-night is thrilling but after the first group of shoppers have completed their sales, the store is basically “dead for a few hours.”  She admitted that the next wave of enthusiastic deal seekers will appear around 5:30 a.m. I may be one of them.

I know that this year’s shopping excursion will differ from the ones of the past.  This year, I commit to being more thankful and grateful to the many workers who give up their holiday to work on Black Friday.  Maybe I will give them an extra “thank you” as I complete my transactions?  Or ask one or two people if I can get them a cup of coffee? Even if they decline the offer, I want to be sure that the many clerks, security guards and other staff  like Sophie know that I see and appreciate their willingness to work even if I am buying just a pair of gloves or a toaster at 4 o’clock in the morning on the day after Thanksgiving.  As for Sophie?  I intend to call her at 2 o’clock this morning (yes, I will be setting my alarm) tonight so she knows that she is not alone and is loved by many.