President-elect Barack Obama’s call for Americans to join in service to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during today’s King Holiday has resulted in a record number of projects taking place in communities across America.
Community and nonprofit groups across the country will take part in the call to “Make it a Day On, Not a Day Off” in an effort to fashion MLK Day into a day of community service.
In 1994, Congress passed legislation encouraging the King Federal Holiday be a national day of service, and charged the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency, with leading the annual national effort. Participation has grown every year since, but has taken a quantum leap this year with Obama’s call to service.
As of 2 p.m. yesterday, the Presidential Inaugural Committee reported that more 12,100 service projects had been registered. That number is more than double the record set last year when 500,000 people across the nation took part in 5,000 projects on the King Day of Service.
“In this time of economic distress, we need citizen service more than ever. Service is a solution that can bring us closer to Dr. King’s dream of a better America,” said Stephen Goldsmith, the corporation’s board chair. “While our nation has made great progress, we still have much work to do. Service is a powerful way for every American to bring us closer to meet our challenges and fulfill the promise of America.”
A wide variety of projects are being planned including delivering meals, refurbishing schools and community centers, collecting food and clothing, removing graffiti and reading to children. Many organizations use the day as a springboard for year-round civic action, such as signing up mentors or tutors or youth taking pledges of nonviolence.
Some highlights include:
- Thousands of volunteers will gather at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington D.C. to assemble over 75,000 care packages to send to our troops for the “Day of Service for Our Military” project sponsored by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Serve DC in partnership with Operation Gratitude and Target.
- More than 65,000 volunteers will serve in 900 projects in 14th annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service, the largest in the country. Organizers are using the day to launch MLK 365, a new year-round initiative promoting sustainable civic engagement and volunteer opportunities.
- The Points of Light Institute and its HandsOn Network will engage more than 100,000 volunteers in projects across the country that are expected to serve more than one million Americans.
- More than 600 Boys and Girls Clubs are participating in the King Day of Service, engaging members in community clean ups, writing letters to soldiers, organizing food drives, visiting senior centers and creating care packages for sick children.
- The American Red Cross is teaming up with HOPE Worldwide to engage volunteers in 25 cities to canvass door-to-door and provide vital fire safety information to help residents prevent home fires, protect their loved ones and strengthen their community.
- Many major US corporations are participating in King Day by encouraging their employees to serve and supporting local projects. Examples include Shell, Target, Best Buy, Kaiser Permanente, and Walmart.
- More than 16,000 college students from 130 campuses in 28 states will engage in King Day service projects organized by Campus Compact, with projects ranging from neighborhood clean-ups to preparing and serving meals to hospice patients.
- In Buffalo, NY, several hundred members of Western New York AmeriCorps program will supervise 4,000 volunteers for projects including boarding up the windows of dangerous condemned houses to teaching community members how to run their own community garden.
- At colleges across the US, Campus Kitchens will engage college students and community volunteers in leading hunger relief programs to share on-campus kitchen space, recover unused food from campus cafeterias, and deliver meals to low-income neighborhoods.
- Children for Children in New York City will engage 3,000 elementary and middle students in a day of hands-on service projects honoring Dr. King at two schools in midtown and Harlem.
- Youth Service America has launched “Semester of Service” to encourages students, ages 5-25 engage in service-learning starting on King Day and culminating on Global Youth Service Day on April 24-26.
The seven national strategic partners for the 2009 King Day of Service are the Points of Light Institute, The Corps Network, North Carolina Campus Compact, Youth Service America, Service for Peace, Campus Kitchens and the National Alliance of Faith and Justice.
National nonprofit partners include the AARP, American Association of State Colleges and Universities, American Red Cross, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, America’s Promise, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Breakthrough Collaborative, Causecast, City Year, Do Something, First Book, Habitat for Humanity International, HOPE worldwide, The King Memorial Foundation, Lutheran Social Services. MENTOR, National Marrow Donor Program, ServiceNation, Student Conservation Association, United Way of America, VolunteerMatch and YouthBuild USA.
Corporate partners include Cargill, Clear Channel, Comcast, Shell Oil Company, Starbucks, Target and UPS.