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United Way Blog

Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday: A Day On, Not A Day Off

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a U.S. federal holiday and an opportunity to honor Dr. King’s legacy through service. United Ways across the country are mobilizing volunteers to help move us all closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “beloved community.”

On the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, about 100 Valley of the Sun United Way volunteers will stuff 2,600 bags of food to be distributed to schools and children which participate in its “WeekEnd Hunger backpacks” program in Phoenix, AZ. Volunteers pack the food in plastic bags so that it may be discreetly tucked into a child’s own backpack at their school. United Way volunteers deliver the more than 500 bags every Friday from August to June to seven partner schools in Phoenix, ensuring that students in need are guaranteed weekend meals for the entire school year, helping them to be ready to learn at school on Mondays.

In Seymour, IN, Jackson County United Way will engage about 60 volunteers to hang information about its VITA program and “On My Way Pre-K” on the doors of homes in struggling communities. Volunteers will help spread the word that families receiving VITA assistance can save about $300 in tax filing fees and can set their children up for success by providing them high quality preschool at no cost through the On My Way Pre-K program. 

United Way of Central New York is once again partnering with the Greater Syracuse Labor Council for the 16th Annual MLK Food and Clothing Drive. There will be about 100 volunteers on hand to collect and sort cold weather clothing, blankets, non-perishable food, and diapers and make sandwiches for an area soup kitchen. The volunteers also will distribute the boxes to Syracuse-area agencies. In 2015 the volunteers sorted and packed more than 180 boxes of clothing.

And in Washington, DC, United Way of the National Capital Area volunteers will help children with arts and crafts; paint murals; assemble homelessness kits, garden boxes, and care packages; make dog toys; and prepare and serve meals to the hungry.

The Corporation for National and Community Service offers toolkits, lessons plans and more for planning MLK Day service events. Join your local United Way on MLK Day, or any day, to transform Dr. King's life and teachings into community service that will help empower and strengthen your town.