Culture Magazine

MLK Day of Service and Volunteerism: A New American Tradition

By Goedekershomelife @goedekers
President Obama serves food in a soup kitchen on MLK Day of Service, 2010.

President Obama serves food in a soup kitchen on MLK Day of Service, 2010.

Monday, January 20, is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in the United States. Many people look forward to the three day weekend associated with a national holiday, but an increasing number of Americans are using the day to volunteer.

Did you know that the idea of having the third Monday in January be a national day of service is older than the nation-wide celebration of the civil rights leader? The first year that all 50 states recognized Martin Luther King, Jr. day was 2000, but the national holiday of MLK Day of Service was signed into law in 1994.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’” This question has been driving one of the biggest initiatives for community service in our country each January. Just last month, a study found that 1 in 4 Americans donate their time to community causes and those less fortunate than themselves.

You can now find local opportunities to volunteer in your community through the MLK Day of Service website,

Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. Visit

For example, if you live near us in the St. Louis Metro Area, there are a couple of different opportunities to use your time off to help others, including making cards for hospice patients at Crossroads Hospice in Maryland Heights. Or join AmeriCorps in a special event at the University of Missouri.

Check with your local branch of a national non-profit, such as the United Way or YMCA, or reach out to your local shelter, soup kitchen, or human services center for opportunities.

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