Consent forms for Jonee Drake (Lilly employee) and son Carter are located in CAR.

'A Day On – Not a Day Off': Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Legacy

Eli Lilly and Company  | January 15, 2021

Volunteering has always been a part of Lilly employee Thiwasha Harper’s life. As a student at Purdue University, Harper regularly volunteered with her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Once she became a parent, Harper created a tradition to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day each year by performing acts of service as a family.

For the past six years, Harper and her daughter have volunteered with the Circle City chapter of Jack and Jill America, Inc. Some of their favorite activities include making food baskets and painting murals.

This year, Harper hopes more of her Lilly colleagues will join her.

Starting in 2021, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a company holiday, and Lilly is encouraging employees to pay tribute to Dr. King’s legacy by volunteering, reflecting, learning or driving positive change in their communities.

While volunteering looks a bit different because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Harper family is continuing their tradition virtually. They’re collecting coats for Wheeler Mission and delivering “boxes of hope” to residents at the Julian Center in Indianapolis.

“It will definitely have a different feel this year,” said Harper, who works on Lilly’s immunology clinical design hub team.

“Part of the joy we get from volunteering on Martin Luther King Jr. Day is being able to do it with our Circle City family. Our kids have been together since they were preschoolers and to see them work together and talk about why we are doing the projects helps reinforce the importance of why and how we celebrate.”

The volunteering experience also includes a tradition of an adult teaching the kids about Martin Luther King Jr. and how they must keep his legacy alive.

“Hearing this message from other key male figures in my daughter’s life reaches her in a different way than if it was coming from her mom,” Harper said.

For Lilly IT employee Joneé Drake, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is “a day on – not a day off.” Over the past few years, she and her son (pictured above) have commemorated the day by cleaning and organizing at the Boys & Girls Club, stocking pantries at local shelters, and assembling packages of food for families.

Drake and her family won’t be volunteering in person. She’ll also donate coats and create a “box of hope” for Julian Center residents – along with her son and daughter. She feels it’s more important than ever this year to give back to the community.

“While we’ve had to reimagine what we’re doing to adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols, I believe we need to spread hope and joy more than ever,” Drake said.

“Many have faced significant hardships and it’s important to share that they haven’t been forgotten – that people still care. Even though you may have to get creative due to COVID-19, there are lots of opportunities for service that exist.”

Harper knows the time she’s spent volunteering will have a lasting impact on her family.

“Our children are watching us and watching how we use what has been given to us and how we make the world a better place for them to live in,” Harper said.

To learn more about Lilly’s work strengthening communities around the world, visit our Social Impact page.