Did you know that the US Congress passed the “King Holiday and Service Act” in 1994? The federal holiday for Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday was signed and observed in the 1980s. Later, the Corporation for National and Community Service led the effort to designate the day as a national day of service, a “day on, not a day off.” The MLK Day of Service calls for Americans (and I would argue, anyone around the world) to serve where people need them most. The MLK Day of Service is a day when hundreds of thousands of families and individuals can come together and dedicate time to strengthen their community. Whether they help in cleaning up their neighborhood, improving their schools, or spending time with seniors or children, volunteering on MLK Day gives us a way to reflect on Dr. King’s life and teachings.
Last MLK Day, I took my daughter and a couple of friends to volunteer at Interfaith Ministries of Houston. This nonprofit organization has three main areas of service: 1) Meals on Wheels which brings meals to the homes of seniors (and animals for their pets), 2) Refugee Services, and 3) Interfaith Relations. Muslim, Hindi, Jewish, Catholic, and other Christian youth groups gathered around for icebreakers. They organized activities for us to get to know one another, and we spoke about our views of Houston, as an integrated, vibrant city of the 21st century.
We were divided into separate teams: one group would be helping to repair donated bicycles to be given to new refugees so they would have transportation to their new jobs; one group would be prepping “hurricane meals” for seniors that could be stored in the case of emergencies; and the last group – ours – would be bagging up dog and cat food for the pets of low-income seniors (who often shared their only meal with their pets when money was tight).
It was a long day, but the girls worked hard and methodically to measure the food and organize the donations. They laughed and chatted with their peers until they packed every last bag. It was a wonderful way to spend a day off of school. I highly recommend the tradition for other families! The kids took away the idea that together, we really can take action to make a difference in our communities.
Here are some links and ideas to get you started in a family day of service. Talk with local churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples. Ask if you can bring a group of kids or families to their next service project. Get involved with causes that you are passionate about and that you feel drawn to. Be a role model for your kids on what it means to have compassion and empathy:
Pennies of Time: Tons of volunteering ideas for kids
Welcome to our fifth annual Black History Month series! Follow along all month long as we explore the rich history and cultures of Africa and African-Americans.
You can also follow our Black History board on Pinterest:
Kid World Citizen on Multicultural Kid Blogs: MLK Day of Service
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A Crafty Arab
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Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes
All Done Monkey
Creative World of Varya on Multicultural Kid Blogs
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Creative World of Varya