Every year, people across the U.S. devote the third Monday in January to giving back to their communities. The annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service is a national holiday that honors the beloved civil rights leader. Often called “a day on, not a day off,” AmeriCorps and The King Center lead the day of service on a national level, but communities throughout the country have vibrant local—and safe—opportunities to get involved and give back. Here are some ways to participate on the day of service or throughout the month.
Thousands of communities and organizations plan Day of Service events. So, contact your community leaders or your local library to find out if there are safe and socially-distanced or virtual events in your area. Americorps also provides grants to a number of organizations to organize events. Or reach out to local nonprofits to see if they have events planned.
Many organizations have found ways to create safe, socially distanced volunteer opportunities. From recording your voice to help people with speech impediments to organizing a contact-free coat, food, pet supply, or diaper drive for local nonprofits, you can make your own plan to spend the day creating the good.
With the proper precautions, which include wearing a mask, social distancing, and miking sure that your projects are compliant with local and CDC COVID-19 regulations, outdoor activities can be an important—and safe—way to give back. Gather some family members and friends and have them spread out to work on a community garden, clean up a river area, or pick up trash in a neighborhood park, weather permitting.
Chances are, there are people in your life who could use a bit of cheering up. Plan a videoconference or call to help them feel connected. There are also a number of organizations that request donations of handmade cards. Operation Gratitude has a digital postcard-writing initiative that lets you write a note online, and Soldiers’ Angels’ Letter-Writing team has instructions on writing to deployed soldiers. Or simply write letters to people in your own life who could use a pick-me-up. Organizations like Cards for Hospitalized Kids and Stay Gold also have card-making and letter-writing programs with guidelines.
You can also help someone strengthen their social network through local and online groups that may give them opportunities to connect with others from a distance. For ideas, check out AARP Foundation’s Connect2Affect resources.
If you know someone who is struggling, spend a little time helping them. You may spend time helping them access public benefits or learn how to use technology to stay connected. It doesn’t take a big, organized event to give back. You can simply find a need and help address it in your family, friend group, or community. That’s the very essence of service.