Making the Most of MLK Day


In an attempt to minimize reading time and maximize service time, I’m going to keep this week’s blog post short and sweet.

As federal holidays go, Martin Luther King Day is a fairly young one in the United States (its first observance was in 1986). It is something of a humbler holiday; it has less flash and pizzazz than, say, Christmas Day or Independence Day.

Instead, it is most commonly thought of as a day of remembrance. It is a time to reflect on the work Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did to advance civil rights and equality, and consider the progress made in those areas since his death.

In 1994, more than a decade after MLK Day observances began, a bill requesting “appropriations for the Martin Luther King, Jr., Federal Holiday Commission, to extend such Commission, and to support the planning and performance of national service opportunities in conjunction with the federal legal holiday honoring the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.” was introduced in the Senate for consideration. One of the Representatives who introduced the bill, Harris Wofford, said, “The King holiday, should be a day on…not a day off; a day of action, not apathy; a day of responding to community needs, not a day of rest.” Unsurprisingly, the bill passed and MLK Day has been a Day of Service ever since.

Should you find yourself reading this and with the day off (and so inclined to participate in the Day of Service), take a look at or to find volunteer opportunities near you. All you have to do is enter your zip code to see dozens of local volunteer opportunities. You can even narrow the field down to your particular areas of interest!

If organized community service isn’t your thing (or doesn’t work with your schedule), here are some other ideas for you to make the most of MLK Day and do some good.

1. Get a head start on spring cleaning and set aside items to donate. Go through your closets, junk drawers, storage bins, sheds, cupboards under the stairs, attics, garages, or wherever else you might stash stuff to find all the things you don’t need any more. Take it all to a local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or other organization in need of donations. Chances are someone else in your area could get great use out of what has become junk to you!

2. Pick up a few extra non-perishable items on your grocery run today and donate them to a shelter or food bank nearby. When you finish writing out your grocery list, take a moment to search for the establishment before you go to the store and drop the cans off on your way home. Two birds, one stone!

3. January is National Blood Donor Month so, start celebrating! Winter months are particularly challenging for maintaining the nation’s blood supply; many blood drives end up being canceled due to weather. An especially nasty flu season is also having an effect in some areas by keeping individuals from donating. So, if you can manage it, donate blood. You’ll probably get a juice box or some cookies out of the deal.

4. If you’re on a walk or run through your neighborhood, take a trash bag with you and pick up any litter you spot on your route. It’s easy to breeze past it and take the “not my problem” approach. Today, make it your problem. You’ll enjoy your next jaunt through the neighborhood much more without the unsightly trash.

Some of these suggestions might seem small or inconsequential, but truly, every little bit of effort helps. No good deed is too small. Oh, and if you’re not reading this until after MLK Day, keep these ideas in mind; they have no expiration date!

Okay, that’s it for me this week. Quit reading and start serving!

Mackenzie Wiley is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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