Photo courtesy of Saint Louis University Libraries
Millions of Americans came together around the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday in a day of service to honor the memory of Dr. King. United Way of Greater St. Louis, with support from Points of Light and the Corporation for National and Community Service, launched a series of activities both to honor Dr. King and to inspire a new commitment to serve among the citizens of St. Louis.
Working closely with stl250, an initiative to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the founding of St. Louis, United Way hopes to engage 250,000 volunteers in one million hours of service throughout the year, which embodies Dr. King’s teachings and passion to ignite, inspire and take action through service to others. United Way of Greater St. Louis kicked off the effort by inviting the public to be involved in the community in three ways in January to honor Dr. King: attend a forum about the region’s civic health, attend an agency fair immediately following the forum, and to take advantage of dozens of ways to volunteer throughout January.
The forum featured the release of a study of civic participation in the St. Louis region and across Missouri and was held at St. Louis University, where Dr. King had spoken in 1946 (see photo). Similar to his “Sunday Suppers,” this event allowed the 150 people attending to share a meal, discuss the findings of the study and learn how they can make a difference in the community. Forum participants completed on-site service projects at the event, and an agency resource fair connected participants to community resources and opportunities to engage in future volunteer projects.
In collaboration with nonprofit and for-profit entities, United Way also aimed to recruit 7,500 volunteers in January to help with educational, economic, and environmental projects. These projects included beautification of streets and alleyways; facilitation of financial stability and technology workshops within low-income neighborhoods with an emphasis on serving veterans and military families; and opportunities to engage at one’s home, school or workplace through stl250 and United Way’s volunteer program.
United Way of Greater St. Louis is keeping the official list of volunteer opportunities in the area and tracking participation through a website. The website allows individuals or groups to sign up for projects and keep track of their progress. I believe they will surpass their goal of 250,000 volunteers and one million hours. A new national study released last month by CNCS and the National Conference on Citizenship shows that one in four adult Americans make volunteering a priority in their lives. The annual Volunteering and Civic Life in America research shows that volunteering in the U.S. remains stable and strong across generations.
Volunteering is so rewarding; over and over I hear people say how they get so much more out of their volunteering than they give. All it takes is finding what works for you. Here’s how to get started.