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All Hands on Deck: Participating in MLK Day of Service

On Monday, January 21st we will observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Designated as a federal holiday in 1983, every third Monday in January commemorates the life of Dr. King and his work for justice and equality in the non-violence movement. In 1994 Congress further bolstered this federal holiday by marking it as a national .  Charged with leading this service effort, the Corporation for National and Community Service notes that the should be observed as a “day ON, not a day off,” to empower individuals, strengthen communities, bridge barriers, create solutions to social problems, and move us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.”

As a business owner and community partner, you can join thousands of organizations nationwide who answer the call to service on Monday. Here are some suggestions on ways you can be of service to your local community:

  • Time Off: Provide employees with (paid) time off so that they can utilize the day to give back to their community. You can organize a service project as a team building activity or join a local organization’s service efforts.
  • Organize a Drive: non-profits are usually in need goods to provide to the community that they serve. You can help by organizing a drive to collect non-perishable food, gently used clothing and shoes, personal hygiene products, baby food and supplies, furniture, etc. Identify a cause you would like to support and contact an agency that provides the service to determine their needs prior to beginning your collection drive.
  • : Gather your team and lend a helping hand to an organization. From serving meals or landscaping to painting or visiting the shut-in. Whether you can spare a few hours or a whole day, a few pairs of hands will surely come in handy.
  • Lunch and Learn: Unable to leave the office? Host a lunch and learn session inside your office. Suggestions for learning activities:
    • Invite a local organization following in Dr. King’s footsteps to come in and present their work to your team.
    • Hold a discussion with your team on topics such as community involvement, race, equality, etc. and how they can work together to ensure your company does the right thing and lives up to its values
    • Provide a screening of an important African-American film and facilitate a discussion after the movie.

Be sure to involve your employees in any planning or decision making for your day of service activity so that they feel valued and can make a personal connection to the cause, which can lead to increased participation. A team that volunteers together can improve company culture while also increasing employee morale and camaraderie. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others”? Participating in a Day of Service activity is a way of answering this question and helping to meet the needs of the community where you live and work. If possible, make the commitment to serve not only on the third Monday in January, but throughout the entire year.

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