The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Jan. 18, 2021, is the 26th anniversary of the day of service that celebrates the Civil Rights leader’s life and legacy. Observed each year on the third Monday in January as “a day on, not a day off,” MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities.
Dr. King recognized the power of service. He famously said, “Everyone can be great because everybody can serve.” Observing the Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday through service is a way to begin each year with a commitment to making your community a better place. Your service honors Dr. King’s life and teachings and helps meet community challenges. Service also brings people together of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. The MLK Day of Service encourages all types of service, particularly projects that have a lasting impact and connect participants to ongoing service. The most successful projects connect to the life and teaching of Dr. King, meet a pressing community need, and include time to reflect on his teachings.
About MLK Day
The MLK Day of Service inspires hundreds of thousands of Americans to come together to serve their community. Citizens in all 50 states deliver meals, refurbish schools and community centers, and collect food and clothing. Volunteers also recruit mentors, support jobseekers, build homes and provide other services for veterans and military families, and help citizens improve their financial literacy skills. Our nation’s leaders including congressional members, governors, and mayors honor Dr. King’s legacy through service projects while addressing pressing community needs.
After a long struggle, legislation was signed in 1983 to mark the birthday of Dr. King as a federal holiday. Americans first observed the holiday in 1986. In 1994, Congress designated the holiday as a national day of service and charged AmeriCorps with leading this effort. Taking place each third Monday in January, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service — a “day on, not a day off.” This day of service helps to empower individuals, strengthen communities, bridge barriers, address social problems, and move us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.”
MLK Day and AmeriCorps
AmeriCorps has been charged to lead this effort for the last quarter century, and AmeriCorps members throughout the state of Utah participate in and lead service projects on this national day of service each year. Join us in making MLK Day a “Day On!” We look forward to your engagement and accomplishments in Dr. King’s memory. This year, AmeriCorps programs in Utah are are posting opportunities on JustServe.org so that the public can get involved.
Find a Project
There are projects in need of volunteers both virtually and in person! You can find a project that is right for you. Direct service is a great way to get involved in your community and address local needs.
Start a Project
Are you aware of a pressing need in your community? Do you have a cause you are passionate about? Create your own project to commemorate MLK Day! Visit the MLK Day Project Resources page to access project tips and ideas. This page can help guide projects that will assist with job readiness, provide food assistance, beautify the community, and more!
Additional Project Resources:
- AARP Do-It-Yourself Project Guides: Find step-by-step guides with all the information you need to lead a successful volunteer project in your community.
- Youth Service America Resources: Find project resources for young people of all ages and educators.
Bring Learning to the Service You Do
When you really understand why you’re doing the service you’ve selected, your achievements have greater meaning and it becomes easier to overcome obstacles or setbacks and to recruit volunteers. The more you uncover about the challenges you’re seeking to address, the more inspired you’ll be to do more.
Whether your project is obviously educational or you’re having trouble seeing the learning component in it, there’s plenty to discover both about what you’re doing and how it ties to what Martin Luther King, Jr. aimed for and achieved. Start by digging deeper. Why are the conditions where you’ll be serving the way they are? Which decisions, policies, programs, rules, or circumstances have made them that way?
A new resource made recently available by our sister divisions can help you bring learning to your MLK Day project. Through the Book Buzz program, the Utah State Library Division and Utah Division of Multicultural Affairs have partnered together to bring a series of twelve books to unpack race, facilitate conversation, and shape greater consciousness.
Book Buzz lends books to book clubs, book groups, libraries, organizations, schools, and community centers. Each set contains fifteen books that checkout for eight weeks. If you have planned a group service project, invite your fellow volunteers to participate in the Book Buzz program as well! Visit multicultural.utah.gov/book-buzz/ to see the book titles and discussion questions.
These literary works have been selected to celebrate Black literature and narratives and to honor the immense diversity of their experiences. We invite our community to engage in this opportunity to inspire brave dialogue that can lead to collective action towards inclusive and healing spaces.
Share Your Service
We encourage your to share your MLK Day service projects & learning! You can use the hashtags #MLKDay and #MLKDayOn on social media channels. Tag UServeUtah on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to share your experiences on MLK Day.
Check back soon to learn about the service and learning projects completed by AmeriCorps members throughout the state on this national day of service.
“If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness. By giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.