3 minutes reading time (640 words)

Make Martin Luther King Day a Family Day of Service

Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.”

—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Did you know Martin Luther King Day has morphed into an official “Day of Service?” If you check the website, MLKDay.gov, you’ll see that they suggest “Making it a Day On, Not a Day Off.”

What a great idea. What an even greater idea to make Monday a day of service with your family!

I thought about the things our family does and about any service projects we organized or attended, and at first I couldn’t think of a single thing. How could that be?

And then I thought harder about it. I discovered that volunteering and serving with your family happens all the time! Here are some of the many tiny wonderful ways:

Neighborhood sneak and treat. We made treats every week in November and part of December, and delivered them to unsuspecting neighbors—doorbell ditching and running!

Cub Scout pop (soda) can drive. As a Cub Scout leader I helped the boys recycle and use the money to purchase a holiday gift to “give back” to a 10 year old foster kid. (My family saved all our cans for a whole month, happily donating them for a good cause.)

Church food drive for pantry. As a family we participated with our church by hand delivering empty grocery sacks with a note about our group’s service project. A week later we collected all the bags, which were filled with donated food items, and also donated a generous cash amount to the local food bank. (Did you know $1 in cash is worth $12 of buying power to your local food bank?)

School PTO service in the form of time. I thought about listing all the various events, fundraisers, and school projects I’ve been involved in over the past 10 years … Instead, I’ll just point out that this year my official PTO role is coordinating the yearly Elementary School Rummage Sale. Does that sound exciting or what!?

Chili dinner holiday party. Recently I volunteered to organize a chili dinner for a holiday party. I used VolunteerSpot.com to organize all the volunteers, and the free online sign up sheets made it easy to get more parents involved! (And don’t tell, but I didn’t have to cook a single bean!)

We are a foster family. For several years now we have hosted multiple children in our home who’ve needed a loving, safe environment while their parents work to put their lives back together. My children have benefited in more ways than I can count, so on a big level we often feel like the recipients of the service!

Donate to the United Way. We donate to our local United Way. Not a lot, but every little bit counts, right? We also donate a tithing to our church—even the children pay attention and pay their tiny share.

I was surprised when I realized all the different ways we help and give back in our community. Not all of these examples are “organized service projects,” but it made me realize how easy it is to serve others. Sometimes you don’t even know you’re doing it!

I will be sitting down with my kids this week and asking them to help me come up with a “Day of Service” plan of attack for next Monday. Should we surprise some neighbors and clean up their yards? Or maybe we’ll take a bunch of paper and card making supplies to a local nursing home and help the residents make birthday cards for their families or for each other! How about creating a basket of gently used items—toys, blankets, coats, and a pretty dress or two—and delivering it to a local women’s shelter?

What will you do with your family on your day off—I mean—your day ON?!

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#2 Carissa Rogers 2012-01-18 21:09
I LOVE HON they come up with fabulous ideas, in fact I know Jessica Kirkwood personally! Tell her I said hi.. :-)
#1 Emily G 2012-01-12 17:21
Great ideas, Carissa! Another great resource is the Hands on Network (handsonnetwork .org). It organizes one-day service projects on MLK Day in several cities. Things like picking up trash and spreading mulch in public parks and putting fresh coats of paint on things at schools. It's great to be able to see that you've made a difference after a few hours, and it's a lot of fun, too!

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