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Martin Luther King Jr. Day: How you can volunteer in your city

Each year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day not only brings a three-day weekend, but the opportunity to move us closer to King’s vision of a “beloved community.”
Image: Dr Martin Luther King Jr
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. leads a march to the courthouse in Montgomery, Ala., on March 17, 1965. AP

Each year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day not only brings a three-day weekend, but the opportunity to move society closer to King’s vision of a “beloved community.”

Established as a federal holiday in 1983, MLK Day was designated a National Day of Service by Congress in 1994. Since then, volunteer groups have turned the third Monday in January into “a day on, not a day off” by visiting pet shelters, working in food pantries and cleaning up neighborhoods across the country.

If you’re close to any of these 10 major U.S. cities and are looking for opportunities to volunteer, check out this list of events taking place on Monday.


The Bed Stuy Campaign Against Hunger

BSCAH invites volunteers to prepare and distribute food, assist with warehouse deliveries and clean out chicken coops.

Kinard Family Helping Hands

Feed the homeless, distribute clothing and help inform the Newark, New Jersey, community about shelters, medical providers and other charitable organizations in the area.


Playworks PA

Help provide children and families with “a day of play and education” as a volunteer with Playworks.

EAT Café

Help repair, clean and organize this West Philadelphia cafe. Afterward, donate boxed lunches to a neighboring organization.


D.C. Tutoring and Mentoring Initiative

Canvas around the city to recruit tutors and mentors for young students.

Rock Creek Conservatory

The Bancroft Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization was recently awarded a grant by the Washington Department of Energy and Environment to restore and reforest Piney Branch in Rock Creek Park. You can help clean and maintain the park.


Cradles to Crayons

Cradles to Crayons will be working with more than 10 community agencies to host interactive and informative drop-off sites.

The Anti-Cruelty Society

Read, socialize and make toys for adoptable pets at the Anti-Cruelty Society. Volunteers will also create adoption packets and posters for pets who live in the shelter.


L.A. Works

L.A. Works volunteers will help beautify schools to increase the morale of students.

Organizing for Action

Stop by Organizing for Action’s community blood drive to donate. January also happens to be National Blood Donor Month, as blood is in shorter supply during the winter because of weather and cold/flu season.


College Success Foundation/Americorps

The College Success Foundation and Americorps will be cleaning up the West Seattle Arboretum.

Accelerator YMCA

Volunteer with the Accelerator YMCA to discuss the importance of MLK’s legacy and learn how to help marginalized communities through its programming.


National Women of Achievement

Help collect donations and assemble bags with toiletries for college students in need.

Hope Farms

Plant fruit trees, build compost areas, create public art and more at Hope Farms.


People Making a Difference

Make, serve and share a special lunch with the elderly.

9th Annual Cambridge Day of Service

The 9th Annual Cambridge Day of Service is full of a variety of volunteer opportunities, including making fleece scarves and blankets for homeless children and adults, making cards for the elderly and veterans, and sorting through donations.


Salvation Army

Clean gardens and parking lots and possibly paint the community center with the Salvation Army.

Nashville Tree Foundation

Help the Nashville Tree Foundation plant fruits trees at several locations throughout the city.

10. PORTLAND, Ore.

Surfrider Foundation

The Surfrider Foundation’s “Hold Onto Your Butt” program is hosting its 2nd annual Green Streets Cleanup, where volunteers will help keep waterways clean by picking up trash, especially cigarette butts.

Clark Center

Volunteers will prepare a meal for the men living at the Clark Center.