MLK Day should be a day unlike any other holiday, just as Martin Luther King Jr. was unlike other men in his lifetime. As much as we’re all tired and could really use a day off to do nothing (or shop those online sales), this is not supposed to be that day. That is according to those who worked for decades to establish this national holiday. To truly honor the civil rights leader, we need to devote some of the day to community service, and to make it even more meaningful and fun, our kids can join us.
“Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve,” King said in his famous “Drum Major Instinct” speech at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1968. And it’s never too early to teach your children this form of greatness either.
Yes, we are still in the middle of a pandemic. Volunteer work looks very different from the way it used to. We can’t all work together in a soup kitchen, meet face-to-face to teach English, or visit the elderly in their homes. But after the year we just had, and the hardships that are far from over, everyone’s help is still sorely needed. Luckily, nonprofits and community organizations have spent months figuring out how to use volunteers without endangering anyone’s health. Some of these opportunities are in person and socially distanced. Others offer ways that kids and parents can work on something at home, and some are entirely virtual acts of service.
What we have here is a mere starting point. Be sure to check in with your local organizations to see what volunteer opportunities might be happening close to home.
At DoSomething.org, the youth-focused organization lists a number of ways young people can help others at a safe distance, and kids can even win scholarships by earning credits for each activity they do. The suggested activities include collecting food for food banks, making no-sew cloth face masks, and swapping stories with older adults.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee’s National Day of Service
Resuming an MLK Day tradition started under President Barack Obama, President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris’ inaugural committee built this volunteer search engine that will show you volunteer opportunities near you, online, or on the phone. You can do things like package hygiene kits and school supplies, phone bank to raise awareness about hunger, join a virtual social-justice read-a-thon.
One Warm Coat
The website OneWarmCoat.org has gathered info from coat drives all across the country, so that you can find one closest to you. The organization says that demand for coat donations is up 30-50 percent due to the COVID-19 economic crisis. Want to make your impact greater? You and your kids can call and text friends, family, and neighbors to find coats (in good condition) to donate and help deliver them all to a collection site.
Project Giving Kids
ProjectGivingKids.org is another great kid-focused site that can connect you to great ways to serve. These projects range from going grocery shopping for seniors to making homemade cards that will be sent with shoe donations for children in need.
Doing Good Together
This organization hopes to help families teach kindness and serve their communities all year round. DoingGoodTogether.org has a search portal for family-friendly volunteer opportunities. They also have projects to do at home, including resources for becoming an anti-racist family and ways to send notes to soldiers and seniors.
Add some of these great children’s books by Black authors and illustrators to your kids’ shelves.