Members of the Theta Omega Omega chapter and Xi Sigma Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, a historically Black sorority, assembled "Pretty Pouches." The pouches will be distributed to underserved girls and women attending Montgomery County Public Schools high schools and Montgomery College. Credit: Ginny Bixby

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 1:07 p.m. on Jan. 17 to correct Amy Bryan’s title. She is the chair of the Uplift Our Local Community Committee for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Theta Omega Omega Chapter. A previous version of the story stated Bryan was the chair of the Theta Omega Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha.

For over 750 Montgomery County residents, Monday wasn’t just a day off work or school. Instead, these volunteers spent their Martin Luther King Jr. Day packing over 80,000 meals, making blankets, assembling care packages and more with the Montgomery County Volunteer Center.

“Today, Montgomery County is really showing that Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day to be on, not off. We’re on here today in Montgomery County,” said Councilmember Kate Stewart (D-Dist. 4).

Hundreds of volunteers packed the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center Monday afternoon to participate in service projects. Monday was the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic that the event was held in person.

“It’s wonderful to have volunteers from the community come back to complete their projects and acts of service,” said Melissa Jackson, event coordinator for the Montgomery County Volunteer Center’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.

“It really is about giving back and doing something good. You feel good when you’ve helped other people, and it really is a day to do something and not just take a day off,” Jackson said.

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Projects included packing over 80,000 jambalaya meals for U.S. Hunger, as well over 185 emergency snow day meals to be distributed through Bethesda/Chevy Chase Meals on Wheels, Wheaton Meals on Wheels and the Jewish Social Services Agency. All meals for the Jewish Social Services Agency were prepared kosher.

Other projects included making blankets for Montgomery Hospice, making toiletry bags for Interfaith Works, and decorating a large mural of Martin Luther King, Jr. that will be used at future events.

One of the projects, assembling “Pretty Pouches,” was coordinated by members of the Theta Omega Omega chapter and Xi Sigma Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, a historically Black sorority. The pouches will be distributed to underserved girls and women attending Montgomery County Public Schools high schools and Montgomery College.

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Members filled the pink floral pouches with necessities such as toiletries and menstrual care products, but also goodies like lip gloss and Starbucks gift cards.

“We know that underserved girls don’t have discretionary funds. We want to make sure that they have all these products they need, but we also want to be able to provide them with the little luxury items so they can fit in with their friends and do things with their peers,” said Amy Bryan, the chair of the Uplift Our Local Community Committee for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Theta Omega Omega Chapter.

Stewart, Councilmember Will Jawando (D-At-large), Councilmember Sidney Katz (D-Dist. 3) and County Executive Marc Elrich stopped by throughout the afternoon to participate in some of the service projects.

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“It’s really good to have people helping other people from all around the county. Today’s theme is to be like Martin, and to see all of this service is a really remarkable thing,” Elrich, a Democrat, said.

Jackson said the Day of Service has expanded to a week of service, with volunteers doing take-home projects throughout the week in addition to Monday’s activities. It’s not too late to volunteer to participate in a service project this week. Jackson said those interested in participating can visit montgomeryserves.org to sign up and get involved.

For details on more MLK celebrations and service activities, click here.

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