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United Way Blog

Not Just Another Day Off: A Call to Volunteer on the MLK Holiday

Hundreds of thousands of Americans will make January 20, 2014 a "day on" instead of a day off by volunteering through the annual Martin Luther King Day of Service.

The great civil rights leader once said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?" MLK Day is a chance to kick off the New Year in a positive way by making an impact in your community. You can start by encouraging the students you know to enter the MLK Day Poster Contest and inspire others to engage in service. The deadline to enter is February 28, 2014.

On the MLK Day of Service there are many thousands of volunteer events taking place throughout the country in which volunteers of all ages can participate. United Ways will deploy volunteers to advance the common good in a variety of ways, but especially in our three focus areas: Education, Income and Health. For example:

Education. United Way strives to help children and youth achieve their potential through diverse education initiatives. On MLK Day, volunteers with United Way for Greater Austin will help create and organize materials for the High Scope Math Curriculum used within child-care facilities that participate in United Way’s Success By 6 program. Success By 6 strives to provide high quality childcare facilities serving low-income children with the goal of getting children ready to enter kindergarten prepared to succeed. In South Carolina, United Way of Greenville County has partnered with the African-American Leadership Greenville and The Urban League’s Upstate Network to provide “speed mentoring.” Parents and youth groups are encouraged to bring their children to the event to meet professional African-American men and women and learn about the many different career options available to them.

Income. United Way of the Wine Country will deploy its AmeriCorps VISTAs in low-income and senior neighborhoods of Santa Rosa, CA to distribute door hangers about the Earn It Keep it Save It program, which helps community members file their tax returns. The Georgetown County United Way AmeriCorps VISTA Collaborative will work with Habitat for Humanity of Georgetown, SC, to participate in homebuilding and maintenance activities. These and other United Way volunteer efforts help promote financial stability and independence.

Health. Arrowhead United Way and Hands On Inland Empire will manage a volunteer project that will help Catholic Charities with garden preparations for their Community Garden in San Bernardino, California. The garden will be used as a source of fresh produce for those in the community who need or want it. United Way of the Columbia-Willamette and Hands On Greater Portland, Oregon have organized numerous volunteer activities throughout the three-day MLK weekend, some of which are suitable for people with limited mobility. For example, volunteers will help organize the Free Clinic of Southwest Washington, which serves the health care needs of the uninsured members of the community. Volunteers will help with filing, organizing, and cleaning for the medical and dental programs.

The MLK Day of Service is a way to extend Dr. King’s teachings into community action that helps solve social problems. That service may meet a tangible need, or it may simply promote the good will and spirit of volunteering. On this day, Americans of every age and background celebrate Dr. King through service projects that strengthen communities, empower individuals, bridge barriers, and create solutions. To take part and learn more about volunteering in your area, contact your local United Way.