In January 2009 as President Obama was preparing to be sworn in as President of the United States, he was also visiting with wounded troops to commemorate MLK Jr. Day. He is quoted as saying:
“As we honor that legacy, it’s not a day just to pause and reflect — it’s a day to act,” the president-elect said. Noting that Americans are participating in more than 11,000 service projects across the nation, he appealed to people “to turn today’s efforts into an ongoing commitment to enriching the lives of others in their communities, their cities and their country.”
This comes in support of the King Holiday and Service Act that was signed in 1994 by President Clinton, establishing the King Holiday as a national day of service. “MAKING THE KING HOLIDAY ‘A DAY ON, NOT A DAY OFF.’ ” President Clinton signed the King Holiday and Service Act, sponsored by Sen. Harris Wofford and Rep. John Lewis, to make the King Holiday a day of service that brings people together. The Day of Service is led by the Corporation for National Service, the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, and other partners with citizens across the country observing this day by tutoring children, painting classrooms, delivering meals, and other community projects. You kind find out more at MLKDay.gov.
Several years ago, in support of this statement, my husband and I set out to do something with the kids that day to help our community. We talked to them about Martin Luther King Jr. and how we were going to go out into our community and do something in his honor, specifically collecting food as a Community Service in Honor of Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr Resources:
- Martin Luther King Jr Resources & Unit Study
- Martin Luther King Jr: Links, Free Printables, Videos & Books
- Martin Luther King Jr. Day website
Our kids were still fairly young at the ages of 10, 7, and 2 1/2, so we wanted to do something they could actually participate in. That year (2009) we put a plastic bin on a sled and headed out into our neighborhood to knock on doors and collect food to donate to a local food bank. While not everyone seemed enthusiastic about us knocking on their doors, we did collect 33 lbs of food and started a family community service project that has spanned the years.
Each year now we print out fliers ahead of time and take them door to door in our neighborhood. This allows people time to collect food and leave it on the doorstep for pick up so that we are not disturbing anyone by knocking on doors. Then on Martin Luther King Jr. Day we head out into the neighborhood to collect all the food. To make the process smoother we drive our vehicle around and have the kids go collect food off the doorsteps as we drive by.
In 2013 we had the opportunity to tour the local food bank where we donate the food. It was a tour that really made an impression on myself and our teenager. Foodlink serves over 450 not-for-profit organizations such as food pantries, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters in a 10-county service area, including an awesome backpack program for kids that we want to get involved with. At their drop off location they sort, store, and pack food to go out to the surrounding counties each day. Volunteers work daily to help accomplish this great task.
This year will mark our 6th Annual Starts At Eight Neighborhood Food Drive. Last year was the first year we offered to collect money in the form of a check made out to Foodlink as well as the food itself. We even had someone donate money and ask us to purchase food with that money to donate to Foodlink. Each year we hope to collect more food and monetary donations to help our local Foodlink location.
While we are just one family, doing a very small part, we feel it is important to teach our kids to reach out into the community and help others around them. We feel it helps them to realize how much they have, and how little that many others have. Doing this project is a hands on way for them to help in our local area. What I have loved most about this project from the beginning is that even the little ones can participate. From putting fliers and posters out, to collecting and sorting food, all of our children have been able to participate each year in some form.
I urge you to consider taking the time out of your schedule to participate in some community service, whether on MLK Day or not. I assure you it will not only be good for your community but good for your heart and soul as well.