In the Chicago area volunteers at a Boys & Girls Club will be “painting for a purpose.” In Austin, Texas volunteers will be removing trash, tires and invasive plants from a local greenbelt. And in Boston, volunteers will be making energy-saving improvements to old homes. The efforts are all part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, which takes place this Monday.
Although the holiday for Martin Luther King was first observed in the 1980s, a number of civil rights leaders felt that it shouldn’t be just another three-day weekend of shopping. So in 1994, Congress designated the third Monday in January as a national day of service calling it a "day on, not a day off." The Corporation for National and Community Service leads the effort and created the website MLKDay.gov to help volunteers find projects.
This year the focus is on “advancing King’s dream of economic opportunity,” according to the CNCS. To that end there will be job fairs, food drives, free tax preparation and programs for returning veterans and military families, among many others. Hope Worldwide is teaming up with the Red Cross to focus on fire prevention and volunteers on college campuses across the country are working with local groups on disaster preparedness.
At the Environmental Protection Agency, Administrator Lisa P. Jackson is calling on volunteers to participate in environmental service projects. “There are countless ways to be part of a Green MLK Day,” writes Jackson on the EPA’s blog. “Start using biodegradable and environmentally friendly cleaning products. Learn about composting and give it a shot in your own backyard. Pick up litter at a local park or field. Organize a “green club” in your workplace, school or community.” To find an environmentally friendly project, check the EPA’s Pick 5 website.
—Mary H.J. Farrell