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With MLK breakfast called off due to COVID, R.I. ministers pivot to acts of service

“We felt that MLK was about community service,” the president of the Rhode Island Ministers Alliance said. “We still recognize that even though some may feel we’re coming out of the pandemic, there’s still much disparity in our communities.”

Pastor Howard M. Jenkins Jr. of the Bethel AME Church in Providence speaks during a 2021 news conference, calling for the state to hold a mass COVID-19 vaccination weekend for people of color in Rhode Island.Edward Fitzpatrick

PROVIDENCE — The numbers were looking good: COVID-19 was easing and, for the first time since 2020, the Rhode Island Ministers Alliance was going to have its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day scholarship breakfast in-person.

But then the numbers went up again: COVID-19 spiked, hospitalizations rose, and the Ministers Alliance made the tough call to cancel the event.

Instead they will focus on community service, with a food and shoe distribution event around Providence and other communities.

“We felt that MLK was about community service,” Pastor Howard Jenkins, president of the Rhode Island Ministers Alliance and pastor of Bethel AME Church in Providence, said. “We still recognize that even though some may feel we’re coming out of the pandemic, there’s still much disparity in our communities.”

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The organization will still give out its scholarships later this year, now scheduled for Good Friday.

The annual MLK scholarship breakfast always draws a big crowd, which includes community members and government officials. It was held virtually last year.

People can make monetary donations to the Rhode Island Ministers Alliance, sending them to PO Box 993, Pawtucket R.I., 02860, Jenkins said.

For the food and shoe distribution next week, the alliance doesn’t need donations of goods. Those are scheduled to come to a central warehouse to be packaged before being given out in the community. There are volunteer opportunities, Jenkins said, although they’re trying to limit the teams to two people each.

The alliance is partnering with the Elijah Project, the Matthew Slater Foundation, and Convoy of Hope on the distribution event, Jenkins said. It was planned as an accompaniment to the breakfast; now it will be the focus.

“We’ll still be able to highlight the importance of Dr. Martin Luther King,” Jenkins said.


Brian Amaral can be reached at brian.amaral@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bamaral44.