ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. (WCCO) — President Barack Obama and his family volunteered at a school in the Washington D.C. area on Monday to honor Martin Luther King Day.
“Dr. King obviously had a dream of justice, equality but he also had a dream of service,” said Obama.
In Minnesota, many people also spent their day off helping others.
At STEP, the St. Louis Park Emergency Program, the agency was closed to clients but open to volunteers. Three Minnetonka families were among those volunteering Monday afternoon.
“I like coming here,” said Olivia Cohen.
This isn’t the first time the eight-year-old has volunteered at STEP. On this day, she’s on TP patrol, ripping open toilet paper packs and filling bags with two rolls apiece.
Olivia’s mother was in the shopping area, stocking shelves and supervising boys.
“Benjamin, look for the tomato … then go back and get more mushroom,” said Sarah Norsted to one of her son’s friends.
“It’s fun. They love it. They love coming,” she said.
Still, Norsted believes this day is different than other times they’ve volunteered.
“Today, especially being Martin Luther King Holiday, it’s even more important to come,” said Norsted. ”I want my kids to know this is what you do. You help out your community.”
Her daughter Olivia gets it.
“I feel like today’s a special day for helping people, (like) Martin Luther King did for helping people,” said Olivia. ”So I think we should also.”
“Volunteers are essential,” said Kate Burggraff, the volunteer coordinator and food shelf manager at STEP.
“When we look at all the volunteer hours that are given throughout the year, that over doubles our staff,” said Burggraff. “And truly we wouldn’t be able to serve the families we do without the volunteers that we have.”
Olivia’s brother Will also helped stock the shelves. The 13-year-old said he had mixed feelings about being at the food shelf.
“Happy that I’m fortunate enough to have my own food,” said Will. “But sad that people have to come here and can’t support their own family.”
If you’re interested in volunteering, the following sites can help you find service opportunities in your neighborhood.
King National Day of Service
All for Good
HandsOn Twin Cities
Greater Twin Cities United Way Caring Connection
St. Louis Park Emergency Program (STEP)
Paula Engelking, Producer