Since its establishment in 1986, the third Monday in January has been recognized as a National Day of Service, honoring the civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is the only national holiday designated as a day of service, encouraging Americans to give back through acts of service and volunteerism while also providing an opportunity to reflect on Dr. King’s legacy and his tireless efforts in promoting equality and justice.
With a little planning, you can make an impact on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2024—and beyond. To begin, familiarize yourself with Dr. King’s legacy, the significance of this special day, and why it is dedicated to service. Good resources to get started include The King Center, AmeriCorps, and The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute. Next, consider how you want to spend your day helping others. Here are some ideas:
1. Contact local nonprofits to join their events
Many nonprofits plan events around Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, providing many opportunities for you to donate your time and skills. Many communities host peace walks and parades that need volunteers and participants. Alternatively, you can contact your employer's human resources department to inquire about any group volunteering projects the company may have planned. If none are scheduled, consider suggesting the start of one.
2. Clean up your community
Organize or join a community clean-up event to beautify public spaces, such as parks, beaches, or streets. Extend invitations to family members, friends, neighbors, local officials, schools, and anyone else residing or working in the community. Encourage local businesses to engage their employees as well. Ask participants to bring their own items like trash bags and gloves, or consider providing them. Community cleanups not only contribute to a cleaner environment but also foster a sense of community pride and unity.
3. Organize a drive or swap
Assist local nonprofits or those in need by organizing a swap or drive. Notify local media, request local businesses to post flyers, and utilize social media to spread the word in the weeks and days leading up to the event. Plan a central drop-off location where participants can bring the items you are collecting. Depending on the nonprofit you choose, they may require gently used clothing, coats, non-perishable food items, books, diapers, or other necessities.
4. Plant trees or gardens
Environmental stewardship is a powerful way to serve your community. Consider organizing a tree-planting event to enhance local green spaces or joining or starting a community garden that can provide fresh produce to those in need. Reach out to local environmental organizations for guidance and support. Additional information can be found at the American Community Garden Association as well.
5. Make care packages for those who are unhoused
Assemble care packages containing essential items such as wipes, deodorant, socks, blankets, and non-perishable food items. Distribute these packages—sometimes referred to as "blessing bags"—to local shelters or collaborate with individuals or organizations assisting those who are unhoused. Your act of kindness can offer warmth and comfort to those facing adversity.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is an opportunity for each of us to embody the spirit of service, justice, and equality championed by Dr. King. Best of all, you can let your own creativity and passion determine how you give back to honor him.
Ready for more volunteer ideas for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and beyond? Visit www.createthegood.org for information and inspiration.