The unofficial motto of Martin Luther King Jr. Day is “It’s not a day off; it’s a day on.” Since the year after it began in 1983, the holiday has been structured around community service in tribute to the civil rights leader.
The list below contains volunteer opportunities at various places in the D.C. area for the holiday, which is celebrated Monday, Jan. 20. (King’s actual birthday was Jan. 15.)
An MLK Day of Service is being held from 8:30 a.m. to noon Monday at the Arlington Career Center, on S. Walter Reed Drive. You can get service projects and volunteer training. You need to sign up, though; you can do that and learn more at the Volunteer Arlington site.
The 11th annual MLK Day, on Monday will give 250 people a bunch of opportunities to be of service to students, Alexandria residents and homeless people in the community. It’s at the Center for Design, Media and the Arts at the Northern Virginia Community College’s Alexandria campus, at 3301 Netherton Drive. You need to sign up in advance, which you can do at the Volunteer Alexandria site.
They’re looking for volunteers to remove trash and invasive plants at parks and trails all over Montgomery County, including Evans Parkway Neighborhood Park, Rock Creek Stream Valley Park, Paint Branch Stream Valley Park, Hillwood Manor Neighborhood Park and Matthew Henson State Park Stream Valley Park.
Locust Grove Nature Center will be hosting a drop-in volunteer opportunity between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The projects are approved for Student Service Learning hours.
“Montgomery Parks began organizing MLK Jr. Day of Service clean-ups in 2012,” the department said in a statement. “The initiative has resulted in 2,623 volunteers removing more than 47 tons of trash and recyclables from parkland.”
The Thursday Network is holding a Day of Service at the Takoma Park Middle School, in Silver Spring, which will give volunteers the opportunity to make and pack sandwiches for homeless people; pack bags with toiletry items, sorting produce donations and more. It’s from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and volunteers need to sign up in advance.
There’s a passel of volunteer opportunities on Monday from Germantown to Silver Spring. Check the Montgomery County site for an event near you – keeping in mind that most of them need you to sign up in advance.
Prince George’s County
There’s a donation drive for baby items for low-income and homeless teenagers and women at the Prince George’s Child Resource Center, 9475 Lottsford Road, Largo, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday. You need to register in advance.
The District government is sponsoring two events: Ri$e Up, Debt Down, a day of financial empowerment workshops for D.C. residents at the King Elementary School, at 3200 Sixth St. SE from noon to 3 p.m., and the Feed the Hood event, which aims to prepare 1,000 packages for homeless people and at-risk families, also beginning at noon at the King School.
Don’t stop there
And there are all sorts of volunteer opportunities that aren’t linked to the day. The Campaign for National and Community Service has a database of volunteer opportunities year-round that you can search by your ZIP code: The Red Cross has several needs; you could work on the National Park Service’s website; the AARP is looking for after-school mentors and tax preparers. Some, you can even do from home.
The point is to do something. As the man himself said, “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.”