Lightfoot, others kickoff City Year Chicago's Day of Service to honor MLK

American civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King (1929 - 1968) arriving at London Airport.
American civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King (1929 - 1968) arriving at London Airport. Photo credit J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Mayor Lightfoot, Governor Pritzker, and other dignitaries helped launch a virtual Day of Service for the decades-old City Year Chicago program on this Martin Luther King Day.

After hearing the words of Dr. King online, young people like City Year participant Julian Wicks were heard from, explaining why they are participating in the City Year efforts to help others.

"I serve to be a pillar of hope for black and brown kids alike," he said.

City Year Chicago Executive Director Myeti Hamilton said King Day is a “day on, not a day off" for them.

In a typical year, she said, young program participants and corporate volunteers would be packing donations of school supplies, school meals, and more this King Day, but "this year looks very different than in past years, but the impact right now is even greater."

Thanks to sponsors and donors, the program is giving 300 new laptops to three Chicago schools, and preparing packages of school supplies and meals.

Mayor Lightfoot applauded how they all were applying Martin Luther King’s message.

"For all the pain and sacrifice we have experienced from this past year, one of the things that we have gained is a broader understanding of what public service means, as well as recognition of its urgency," Lightfoot said.

Among the dignitaries, Senator Dick Durbin thanked Hamilton for using a quote from Dr. King he’d not heard before, "Only in the darkness can you see the stars."

"Well it is very dark in America in many ways, but we are seeing the stars. And you are the stars. You are the stars, " he said pointing to the camera.

Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx was also among the dignitaries who spoke at the City Year Chicago virtual ceremony. She said she regretted that participants could not link arms the way they did last year.

Never has the dedication to service in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King been needed more, she said, especially after the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

"For those who would speak to hold white supremacy so strong that they would scale walls and break windows, to deny the opportunity for us to live to the values that this country has always aspired to be. That this moment in history is ready for those among us to step up and lead," she said.

Mayor Lightfoot noted this was the first virtual City Year Chicago kickoff, and she hopes it’s the last.