3 Ways to Make MLK Day Mean Something


Martin Luther King Day is next week, which means many people will be off from work and school on Monday, January 19th. While many people see this as a 4-day weekend, and therefore an excuse to stay out late or sleep in for one more day, MLK Day is so much more than that.

While I’ve heard people question why MLK day isn’t in February, which is Black History Month, MLK Day is celebrated on the 3rd Monday in January. This date roughly coincides with King’s January 15th birthday.

The holiday is fairly new and has an interesting path to becoming recognized by the US government. People began campaigning for a national holiday remembering King after his death in 1968. Over the years people, organizations, and even celebrities began to support the idea until it was signed into law in 1983. Interestingly enough, the first Martin Luther King Day was in 1986, but it was not observed in all 50 states until 2000.

MLK Day is more than just remembering the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, though. One of King’s most repeated quotes on this holiday is, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?'” As a civil rights activist, King constantly worked to improve the lives of all Americans. Why not use that as inspiration to help out those around you?

MLK Day is part of President Obama’s United We Serve plan that began in 2009. The idea is that by taking the time to volunteer and make a difference in the community, the community will begin to improve. Not sure where or how you can help? Here’s 3 places you can look to volunteer this Monday. Please note that you should always call ahead about volunteering instead of simply showing up to any location.

1. Food banks

Food banks are a great place to volunteer because you can not only help out a great cause, but you can also go with friends or the entire family and work together. Check out places like the Feeding America website to find a food bank near you.

2. Homeless shelters

Like food banks, homeless shelters are always in need of extra hands to help. If you aren’t sure where your nearest homeless shelter is, you can search on websites like Volunteers of America.

3. Check online

Do you have a special skill or passion that you want to utilize this Monday? Perfect! There’s plenty of positions all over America that require specific training or abilities from their volunteers. Websites like Volunteer Match allow people to enter their location and then provides a list of topics they can browse to find the perfect volunteer position for them.

MLK Day is more than just remembering the life of an inspiring civil rights advocate. This Monday is also about giving back to your community and helping those in need. As I’ve said before, please call ahead and state your interest in volunteering before you go in on January 19th. Trust me, I’ve worked at places that take volunteers regularly. Calling ahead means you can make the most of your volunteer time.

It doesn’t matter how long you can donate your time, as long as you make the effort to help your community. If you can’t get off work this Monday but still want to make a difference, perhaps make an effort within your own life to help those around you. Call a friend you don’t see too often, make a special dinner for your family, anything to make someone’s day a little brighter.

The U.S. National Archives. Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking.], 08/28/1963. 28 Aug. 1963. Online image. Flickr. 14 Jan. 2014. https://flic.kr/p/8LTnQf

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