Jan 18, 2015

2015 Day of Service honors the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at Tuskegee University Chapel

In 1994, Congress designated the Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday as a National Day of Service and assigned the Corporation for National and Community Service responsibility for leading a national effort to get citizens more involved in their communities.

And in 20+ years, the movement has gained enormous momentum.  Because of the overwhelming response, community service organizations throughout the country have expanded the “day” of service into a “weekend” of service.

So what better time to begin a lifetime habit of service or rededicate a personal commitment to volunteerism beginning in the high school years?

Throughout the holiday weekend, millions of volunteers of all backgrounds, ages, and ethnicity are joining together to support a movement that has already had a profound impact on our nation. 

But it doesn’t just have to be for a weekend or a day. You can help by looking around your community for projects or kick-up your service a notch by joining larger scale projects sponsored by area nonprofits.
Here are a few ideas:
  • Join Habitat for Humanity, AmeriCorps members and community volunteers to help build new construction units in the Ivy City neighborhood of Washington, DC.
  • Donate children’s book, non-perishable food items and coats through the Prince William Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
  • Join Rock Creek Conservancy and the National Park Service to help remove invasives from the trees and the ground in the eastern section of Melvin Hazen, a tributary of Rock Creek.
  • Come to the Greater Washington Urban League headquarters and help assemble care packages or help distribute blankets and care packages to the homeless across DC and Maryland.
  • Assemble a group of friends to write holiday cards and notes for seniors enrolled in local Meals on Wheels programs. Valentine's Day is just around the corner!
  • Bring your own bike and participate in the Anacostia EcoTour designed to give participants a first-hand look at the environmental achievements and contributions of concerned citizens in the DC metropolitan area.
  • Help elderly or disabled neighbors by raking leaves, shoveling snow, or weeding. Again a volunteer corps of high school students "on-call" to provide these services would be a welcome addition to your community.
  • Round up a bank of sewing machines, collect fabric donations, and gather friends to sew pillowcases for children with life-threatening diseases.
  • Organize a drive to collect jeans for the homeless in your community.
  • Support your local animal shelter by organizing a pet food drive. Or bring donations to the Humane Society of Fairfax County’s “ani-meals” pet food pantry which offers pet food and related pet car items to low-income residents of the county.
  • Form a weekly knitting or crochet circle of high school friends and create tiny hats for pre-mature infants in area hospitals or make scarves and shawls for patients at veterans hospitals.
  • Sign-up for a shift at a local soup kitchen, like Our Daily Bread in Fairfax. Bring along canned food donations you’ve collected in your neighborhood.
  • Volunteer at a donation center like the NVFS Clock Tower Thrift Shop in Centreville VA, and gather some gently-used clothes and jackets to donate when you go.
  • If you speak a second language, offer translation assistance or volunteer tutoring services to limited English speaking residents of your community. Locally, there is a particular need for volunteers with knowledge of Spanish, Korean, and Vietnamese.
  • Collect donations and assemble “care packages” for members of the military assigned overseas. Or gather a group of friends and write letters to service personnel.
  • Organize a school supply drive and donate these materials to organizations serving children and families like the Children’s Inn at the National Institutes of Health.
Volunteer Fairfax plans to celebrate the weekend by inviting families to volunteer together at either of two local sites.  Volunteer Alexandria is looking for senior and youth volunteers to assist with canvassing a local neighborhood in the City of Alexandria to raise awareness about emergency preparedness. 
And the Montgomery County Volunteer Center is organizing a Service Projects and Volunteer Fair, on Monday January 19,  from 1:00 to 3:00, at the Marriott Conference Center in North Bethesda.
The opportunities to get involved in your community are endless.
For a more centralized listing of service projects check out the mlkday.org website maintained by the Corporation for National and Community Service

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others/” Martin Luther King, Jr.

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