On Monday's National Day of Service, people across the country will honor the legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by volunteering in their communities. But finding volunteer opportunities isn't always as straightforward as one might presume. Many organizations have age requirements for their volunteers, which can be a challenge for families with younger children. Others require volunteers to go through formal training before they can serve, and many - if not most - require individuals to sign up in advance, and these spots can fill up quickly. (This, of course, is a good "problem" to have!)
The good news is, you don't even have to leave the four walls of your house to find opportunities to give back. So, if you want to observe MLK Day as a "day on, not a day off," but you have young kids or didn't plan in advance, we've got you covered. Here are some great ways to volunteer in and around your home:
- Get outside. Take a walk in your neighborhood and pick up litter. Before you go, download the Charity Miles app to earn money for your favorite charity for every mile you log.
- Organize your own event. Choose a cause you care about and invite friends to collect items for that cause. Create blessing bags for the homeless, assemble care bags for chemo patients, make greeting cards for hospitalized kids, create thank you cards for the military, or write letters to the elderly. Host a lemonade stand and donate the money you raise to your favorite charitable organization.
- Gather donations at home. Gather items you no longer use which could bring joy to someone else and donate them. This could include clothing, toys, books, home decor and more. Alternatively, you could sell these items at a yard sale and donate the money raised to charity. Donate non-perishable foods and snacks to a little free pantry.
- Show kindness to your neighbor. Take a neighbor's garbage can to/from the curb, or simply visit with a neighbor who spends much of their time at home.
- Be kind to animals. Volunteer to spend time playing with a neighbor's pet or to take a friend's dog for a walk. Make birdseed cookies and hang them in your yard.
- Don't forget your immediate family. Be intentional about showing kindness to the members of your household with this fun activity: Put the names of each member of your family in a hat. Have everyone draw a name and then spend the day doing surprise acts of kindness for that person. This website has some great ideas for showing kindness to your family.
Plan ahead for next time.
Keep these ideas in your back pocket for the next time you have a snow day from school or work. And start thinking now about the next Congressionally-declared National Day of Service on September 11th, by which time you might wish to pursue a volunteer opportunity outside your home. If you do, here are some suggestions for finding those opportunities:
- If you already know of some charitable organizations in your area that you'd like to help, check to see if they have a website or Facebook page. You can often find out about their volunteer needs there.
- If you really don't know where to start, your local YMCA can be a great resource or check out organizations like VolunteerMatch, Points of Light, or (for those located in the Triangle area of North Carolina) Activate Good to find volunteer opportunities in your community.
Regardless of how and where you choose to serve on MLK Day - whether at home or out in the community - you CAN make a difference.