National Day of Service
Also known as
Martin Luther King, Jr., Service Day
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service
the third Monday in January (since 1995)
Rep. John Lewis on April 29th, 1993
Sen. Harris Wofford on April 29th, 1993
President Bill Clinton on August 23rd, 1994
US Congress on August 23rd, 1994
The King Holiday and Service Act, which created Martin Luther King, Jr., Service Day—also called the National Day of Service—was co-authored by Representative John Lewis (D-GA) and Senator Harris Wofford (D-PA). The legislation encouraged citizens to transform Martin Luther King, Jr. Day from a day of observance to a day of action and service. It was to be a day of using community action to solve social problems, just as King did. President Clinton signed the legislation into law on August 23, 1994.
Since its inception, the National Day of Service has been coordinated nationally by Americorps. They invite everyone to "engage with your community and create constructive action," "act on Dr. King’s legacy of social justice and equity," and "recommit by volunteering to serve others" such as by cleaning up a public space, mentoring a young person, or helping those who are food insecure. Today many organizations participate in the National Day of Service, which is the only national day of service besides the National Day of Service and Remembrance on September 11 each year."
How to Observe National Day of Service
Find information about this year's observance from Americorps. They have information about where you can volunteer and how to become an MLK Day Champion, and resources such as a toolkit and project ideas and tips.
Some ideas from Americorps on how to participate include:
- Secure a National Day of Service proclamation from your city, state legislature, or governor.
- Promote the National Day of Service on social media.
- Host a discussion about Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life, teachings, and principles of non-violence. This could be part of a Generations Over Dinner event.
- Help members of your community prepare for jobs by assisting them with resume building, interviewing, and filling out job applications.
- Take on food insecurity. Serve meals at a homeless shelter or other location, volunteer at a food bank or pantry, bring meals to homebound members of your community, organize a food drive, plan a community garden, teach healthy eating on a budget, or buy someone a meal.
- Organize a blood drive or drug take back.
- Make your community more beautiful. Remove graffiti, paint a mural, volunteer at a park, or create community green spaces by planting trees, grass, and flowers.
- Give out disaster preparedness kits and help those recovering from disaster.
- Shovel, clear leaves, or do other yard work for elderly community members.
- Help refugees.
- Check in on friends, family, and neighbors.