When Martin Luther King Jr. Day was first declared a national holiday, celebrations were small and quiet affairs. Today, there are parades in cities from coast-to-coast; financial markets and banks are closed; government workers nationally and in many states have the day off; and it is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service.
Calling it a “day on, not a day off,” the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) promotes volunteerism and community projects as a way of honoring Dr. King. Working with The King Center in Atlanta, the CNCS annually awards grants to organizations to develop and coordinate service projects on the MLK Day of Service.
Among the projects taking place today are a 50-volunteer effort to build and equip “little libraries” in Louisiana, and 250-volunteer effort in Englewood, NJ to prepare 2,000 kid-friendly, healthy and easy-to-prepare snack food packages. In New York City, more than 500 volunteers are expected to participate in a series of service projects to support low-income, needy children, seniors and families.
“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,” the CNCS explains, quoting Dr. King who said, “Everyone can be great because everybody can serve.”