This Monday, January 20th, is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. On the third Monday of every month, the federal government honors civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. On this day, many government offices, banks, schools, and businesses will shut down for the holiday. But the Corporation for National and Community Service would like to recognize King’s life and legacy with volunteer efforts in what they call “a day on, not a day off.”

About Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a vital figure of the modern era and a pivotal figure in the Civil Rights Movement. His lectures and dialogues stirred the concern and sparked the conscience of a generation. His charismatic leadership inspired men and women, young and old, in this nation and around the world.

Following in his father’s footsteps, in February 1948, at the age of 19, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. entered the Christian ministry and was ordained at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. In 1954, upon completion of graduate studies at Boston University, he accepted a call to serve at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. While there, he was a leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, made famous by the nonviolent resistance and arrest of Rosa Parks. He resigned this position in 1959 and moved back to Atlanta to direct the activities of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

From 1960 until his death in 1968, he served as co-pastor with his father at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee and died on April 4, 1968.

A Day On… for your Community

The MLK Day of Service inspires Americans to come together to serve their community. Citizens in all 50 states deliver meals, refurbish schools and community centers, and collect food and clothing. Volunteers also recruit mentors, support job-seekers, build homes and provide other services for veterans and military families, and help citizens improve their financial literacy skills. Our nation’s leaders including congressional members, governors, and mayors honor Dr. King’s legacy through service projects while addressing pressing community needs.

After a long struggle, legislation was signed in 1983 to mark the birthday of Dr. King as a federal holiday. Americans first observed the holiday in 1986. In 1994, Congress designated the holiday as a national day of service and charged the Corporation for National and Community Service with leading this effort. Taking place each third Monday in January, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service — a “day on, not a day off.” This day of service helps to empower individuals, strengthen communities, bridge barriers, address social problems, and move us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.”

Why Serve on MLK Day?

Dr. King recognized the power of service. He famously said, “Everyone can be great because everybody can serve.” Observing the Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday through service is a way to begin each year with a commitment to making your community a better place. Your service honors Dr. King’s life and teachings and helps meet community challenges. Service also brings people together of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. The MLK Day of Service encourages all types of service, particularly projects that have a lasting impact and connect participants to ongoing service. The most successful projects connect to the life and teaching of Dr. King, meet a pressing community need, and include time to reflect on his teachings.

How can I serve on MLK Day?

In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.” Use NationalService.Gov’s search tool to find an opportunity in your community. Or, use the MLK Day of Service to find an organization you care about and pledge to serve all year-long.

EdenHill is always accepting volunteers and has many opportunities to make a difference now and in the future. Visit our website to find out how you can make a difference in our residents’ lives.

How Can I Continue to Serve After MLK Day?

Start by connecting your MLK Day activities to the service you want to do during the year. That may mean that you attend a volunteer training on King Day to prepare to serve as a regular volunteer. Or it may mean that you volunteer with a new organization you want to learn more about. Where and how you serve is up to you – the important thing is to get involved.

Adapted from NationalService.gov