Last Monday, as communities marked the federal holiday, United Way took part in the Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service.
Organized by our longtime partner Global Citizen, it is the oldest and largest annual service celebration in the nation – bringing together local nonprofits, city and state leaders, and community members to celebrate the life and legacy of the late Dr. King.
Every year, the event focuses on a specific area of social justice. This year, event organizers homed in on gun violence prevention, a growing concern in neighborhoods throughout the city and country.
“We wanted to center this event around a tangible issue that affects Philadelphians in their day-to-day lives,” said Mike Waller, community outreach manager of United Way. “And unfortunately, people are dealing with a significant increase of gun violence in their neighborhoods.”
“We wanted to center this event around a tangible issue that affects Philadelphians in their day-to-day lives. And Unfortunately, people are dealing with a significant increase of gun violence in their neighborhoods.”
The day started off with an emotional round of the song, “We Will Overcome,” from the Dean of Girard College, F. Christopher Goins, M.Ed., and inspiring words from the region’s most prominent leaders, including Mayor Kenney, Senators Fetterman and Casey, State Representative Dwight Evans, and Philadelphia City Council President, Darrell Clarke.
Waller and several other United Way employees were there to spread the word about the new United Way-run Violence Prevention Hotline, backed by the City of Philadelphia. As of March 2022, when users call 211 and press 3, they are connected to a trained operator that can connect them to a range of programs and services related to gun violence prevention, counseling services, and more.
“It’s important people know that when they dial 211, they will be able to talk to a real person who can connect them to the resources they need,” Waller stated.
“It’s important people know that when they dial 211, they will be able to talk to a real person who can connect them to the resources they need."
A highlight of the event was the afternoon breakout sessions – providing community members and organizations the chance to share their experiences and brainstorm ways to combat gun violence in the city. Organizers knew, though, that these problems were too big to solve in just one afternoon.
“It was made clear that this wasn’t just a one-time thing,” said Waller. “This year’s Day of Service will be used to encourage more community involvement.”
Every attendee left Monday’s event equipped with a gun violence prevention toolkit that included first aid supplies as well as resources and counsel on what to do when they see of experience gun violence in their neighborhoods.
From March through December 2022, our Violence Prevention Hotline helped several hundred Philadelphians access to life-saving resources – most of whom live in areas disproportionately affected by gun violence. The highest number of callers came from the 19140 zip code, which includes Nicetown-Tioga and Hunting Park. Last year, that zip code was recorded to have some of the most shootings in the city, second only to Kensington.
We are proud to be a longtime partner of the Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service and are eager to continue our partnership to address this growing epidemic of gun violence because every person has the right to feel safe in their neighborhood.
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