Bay Area residents are cleaning up neighborhoods, planting trees, painting murals and beginning a fast for peace today, all in the name of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Each year, volunteers across the country recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by working to better their communities, whether that means removing graffiti, renovating school playgrounds, giving blood or feeding the hungry.
Congress designated the holiday a day of service in 1994. King's widow, Coretta Scott King, embraced the idea before her death in 2006.
Some of the Bay Area's communities most challenged by violence are having the greatest number of events, particularly in Oakland, which will host volunteer projects throughout the city.
A "Green Clean Up Day" organized by the Allen Temple Leadership Institute with Mayor Jean Quan and City Council President Larry Reid will target 20 blocks in East Oakland for cleaning.
More than 200 volunteers are expected to participate in the cleanup, which will take place between 8:30 a.m. and noon, primarily along International Boulevard between 81st and 98th avenues. They will remove graffiti and pick up trash.
Another gathering in Oakland will fan out from Sobrante Park Elementary School at 470 El Paseo Drive. After a brief ceremony, volunteers will set out on a variety of projects including building school gardens, painting murals, cleaning up neighborhoods and working on projects at senior facilities.
Elsewhere in Oakland, a group of 74 students from the Life Academy of Health and Bioscience will begin a fast to bring attention to violence in the city.
They are calling the action a "relay fast" in which participants will take turns going without food until Cesar Chavez Day at the end of March. They will begin their fast today after a short ceremony outside of school, located on 35th Avenue.
The students decided to fast in response to three recent Oakland murders that affected the school community.
Along the Bay, the East Bay Regional Park District is inviting volunteers to help clean up the Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline.
Volunteers there will assist parks staff in habitat restoration and invasive plant removal.
Several events are also planned in nearby Richmond, which has also grappled with problems related to poverty and crime.
Members of the Lions Club will be in Richmond all day assisting in home repair projects on six homes on Sixth Street.
Organizers said the homes were chosen because the residents are financially challenged and the homes are in need of basic repairs, including gardening, painting, electrical repairs and energy conservation.
Volunteers will also be working on 10 areas along the Richmond Greenway as part of the city's Fifth Annual Day of Service.
Those volunteers will work primarily on planting trees and cultivating gardens, including planting over 50 fruit trees in a "New Richmond Edible Forest."
Local artists will give performances throughout the day.
In San Francisco, volunteers planned to meet at the African American Art and Culture Complex at 9 a.m. to set out to clean up Bernal Heights. The Department of Public Works is providing transportation, and volunteers will be weeding, landscaping, and cleaning up the area.
Volunteers will also gather at John O'Connell High School on San Francisco's Folsom Street to build two picnic tables, construct and install four bulletin boards, improve the landscaping of a school garden and paint school railings and lunch tables.
The volunteers planned to meet at 10 a.m., and break for a short concert at about noon.
In the city's Tenderloin neighborhood, dozens of volunteers are gathering to paint a mural along 11 blocks of sidewalk, in what participants say will be a visual pathway that will connect schools, youth service providers and community centers.
In the Bayview neighborhood, volunteers with Habitat for Humanity and Rebuilding Together will be gathering to make renovations to the Bayview Opera House, which they say was recently designated a national historic building.
In the South Bay, United Way Silicon Valley is partnering with Resource Area for Teaching to assist local educators for the day, and will meet in Sunnyvale to assemble learning kits that teachers can use in the classroom.
State Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, has joined with NBC Bay Area to invite volunteers to help clean up and restore the Ulistac Natural Area in Santa Clara.
The American Red Cross Silicon Valley will be sending volunteers to locations throughout the South Bay, including San Jose, Campbell and Cupertino, to educate community members about disaster preparedness and fire safety.
Further east, the Diablo Restoration Team is seeking help in restoring habitat along Marsh Creek in Clayton. They'll be watering new shrubs that were planted in December, removing non-native plants and seeding new native grasses and shrubs.
In Pinole, volunteers will gather to clean up the Pt. Pinole Regional Shoreline throughout the day.
In Marin City, some of those gathering for a celebration at the Manzanita Recreation Center will participate in two Conservation Corps projects, a garden restoration at the Mattie and Clarence Boatman Community Garden, and litter removal at the Marin City Marsh.
In addition to the community service, the Bay Area will be celebrating King's life in a number of other ways, including with marches, special meals, concerts and meetings throughout the region.