Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is closed on January 18 in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. As the volunteer coordinator, it’s a little bittersweet to have the day off, because Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a National Day of Service. Yup, that’s right, the Corporation for National and Community Service (the same folks who are in charge of AmeriCorps) designates a few days each year to encourage people to get out in their communities and get work done.
Volunteering is important all year long, but these national days of service are a great reminder about the value of working together alongside your friends and neighbors to improve our world.
Since the Library isn’t open, we aren’t able to offer any service projects on MLK Day this year. Don’t let that stop you, though; there are plenty of other opportunities for you to honor the memory of Dr. King through community service, and there’s plenty of time to decide what to do.
Here are a few recommendations:
- Get Online – Check out PittsburghCares (or your local equivalent) or VolunteerMatch to search for volunteer opportunities that match up with your availability and skills.
- Connect with your school – If you’re a college student, check in with your office of Student Life to see if there are events or on-campus service projects scheduled. (For example, nearly 800 students participated in MLK Day projects at the University of Pittsburgh in 2015) There may also be similar opportunities at colleges and universities for alums or people who live in the communities where the institutions are located – it doesn’t hurt to ask!
- Start a conversation – Books can be a great jumping off point for a discussion with the kids or teens in your life about the importance of helping others and community engagement:
- A is for Activist
- Do Something – A Handbook for Young Activists
- Yes You Can: Your Guide to Becoming an Activist
- Be A Changemaker: How to Start Something that Matters
- Do Something in Your State
- Do Something in Your Community
- The Kid’s Guide to Service Projects : Over 500 Service Ideas for Young People Who Want to Make a Difference
- Doing Good Together : 101 Easy, Meaningful Service Projects for Families, Schools, and Communities
- The Summer I Saved the World… in 65 Days
- Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome
- A Kids’ Guide to Hunger & Homelessness : How to Take Action
- Can We Help? : Kids Volunteering to Help Their Communities
- Civic Responsibilities
- Marching with Martin
- Let’s Be Helpful
- If you can’t find a ready-made project, create one! Consider your neighborhood and places where you spend lots of time, such as a school, park, place of worship, or locally-owned business. Be sure to discuss your ideas with the people who work there to see what their needs are and come up with a meaningful project together.
- Invite your friends and neighbors to participate – Identify some challenges your community faces. How can you make an impact? Share ideas, connect with others, and get things done. The #1 way that people get involved with volunteering is by being asked directly to participate.
- Help out in an informal way – Check in on a family member or neighbor who could use a hand with a household project or a home-cooked meal. Volunteering doesn’t need to be “officially sanctioned” by a nonprofit organization. (Here in Pennsylvania, this type of informal volunteering makes up the majority of volunteering, with 69% of residents volunteering “off the books”).
- Plan ahead – Even if you aren’t able to volunteer, set aside a few minutes to reflect on things you can do this year to be of service to others. This book might help.