5 Acts of Service to Honor Martin Luther King Jr. All Year Long

Editor’s note: This Care2 favorite was originally posted on January 14, 2018.

One of the most powerful acts of resistance can be one of solidarity: dedicating some of your time to help a community or cause. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is designated as a day of service in many communities, and it’s a great time to get out and about to connect with people who are passionate about helping — but it doesn’t need to be the only time.

In fact, it shouldn’t be. Every day presents an opportunity to serve your community, and there are lots of options depending on your schedule, ability level and other constraints. After all, service opportunities should be open to anyone who is interested!

We’ve come up with five acts of service you can consider integrating into your routine in 2019.

1. Serve in Office

One of the most profound acts of public service you can perform is becoming a public servant, by occupying a position in an organization that services the public. And growing numbers of people are expressing interest in running for office.

If the thought of political campaigning gives you the heebie-jeebies, though, you’re not alone. You could consider seeking an appointment. Planning commissions usually consist of appointees, for example, as do other committees, commissions, and similar government entities.

Not feeling local government? You could serve on the board of a local organization you care about, or play a role on a committee. If you have a tough schedule, have difficulty leaving the house or have other constraints, consider pushing for organizations to allow for remote meetings; you may be able to conference in from home. This will expand access to others who might be interested in serving, but unable to attend meetings in-person.

2. Hold Local Officials Accountable

Don’t want to be a public servant? That’s okay. There’s another way you can serve, and that’s by holding local officials accountable.

Consider adopting a local government entity as your own, and show up to every meeting — even if you have to do so via livestream. Maybe that’s the hospital board, police commission or city council.

Read their agenda packets thoroughly before you attend to get a sense of what they’re discussing. Don’t be afraid to reach out to members with questions and clarifications. And at the end of the day, participate in public comment, whether in person or via submitted comments in email or letters. Make it clear that somebody’s watching!

3. Volunteer with a Local Organization

Days of service often generate a rush of people who help out one or two days a year, but organizations sometimes struggle to find volunteers the rest of the time. This can be really challenging when people care about a lot of causes and get spread too thin: They go through volunteer training, show up excitedly for a month or two, and then drop out.

So pick a local organization you care about and then go all-in. Maybe for you that means showing up for shifts three times a week. Or once a month. Pick an interval that fits your schedule. If you know leaving the house is a challenge, call or email the volunteer coordinator and ask about something you could do from home, like data entry or helping out with social media.

4. Organize a Service Event

Don’t think I’m down on service events — I’m not! I’m a huge fan of things like Coastal Cleanup Day, the Christmas Bird Count and other events that get communities pulling together to address a common cause or issue. Service days can introduce new volunteers to the concept of community engagement, and they’re a great way to get to know friends and neighbors.

So why not organize one yourself? One easy way to do so is to connect with a bigger group and become a local point person — for example, you can volunteer to become a community coordinator for your area. They’ll send you the materials and promotion, which helps you focus on working with people on the ground.

You can also start your own service day, whether independently or in concert with a local organization. Maybe it’s something like sending out an army of volunteers to mow lawns for seniors and disabled people in the community; organizing to help paint a beloved but dilapidated local structure; or doing a trash pickup campaign after a community parade or other event.

Can’t get out of the house, or have a limiting schedule that makes this thought daunting? Consider recruiting a co-conspirator who can work outside the house, while you can handle social media, graphic design for fliers, phone calls and emails and other tasks that need to be done from a home base.

You can also organize an online-only service event. Maybe that’s a guided Twitter chat to educate people about an issue you care about, or a coordinated Facebook event where people raise awareness about charitable cause you’d love to see getting more funding.

5. Volunteer a Skill

Sometimes organizations need bodies more than anything else. At other times, they can benefit from people with specialized skills — and not just people like doctors and lawyers. A few hours a month, or even a few times a year, can make a big difference.

Think about your own skill-set and how it might apply to helping a local community organization. Amateur photographer? Many animal rescues need help getting appealing photographs of adoptable animals. Pretty good on social media? A local charity might LOVE to hand over the reins to you. Enthusiastic gardener? Offer to help landscape around the local crisis center. Someone who enjoys driving? Service organizations often need help transporting people to medical treatment and appointments. Skilled manager? Some organizations desperately need volunteer coordinators who can help them with volunteer retention, scheduling, and other needs. Math wizard? You’d probably be in demand as a tutor!

Use this MLK Jr. Day of Service as a starting point for a year of volunteering in your community.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr


Paula A
Patricia A2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Peggy B
Peggy B2 months ago

Thank you

Lesa D
Lesa D2 months ago

thank you s.e. ...

Mia B
Melisa B2 months ago

Thank you

Lisa M
Lisa M2 months ago


Lisa M
Lisa M2 months ago


Val P
Val P2 months ago


Janis K
Janis K2 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Sherry Kohn
Sherry Kohn2 months ago

Many thanks to you !

Roslyn M
Roslyn McBride2 months ago

Good article.