Established as a federal holiday in 1983 at the urging of his wife Coretta Scott King, the third Monday in January is a day spent honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The purpose of this special day is to honor the man who fought for racial equality, financial equality and justice by committing acts of service, big or small, within your local community.

Dr. King was assassinated because his message gave hope to an oppressed people. However, over the years, his message has transcended beyond the Black community and Civil Rights Movement to touch the lives of people from all walks of life, all over the world. For this reason, he remains revered for the work he did to improve the lives of the oppressed. Instead of using the MLK Day of Service holiday to sleep in, you can take a cue from the life of Dr. King and turn a day off into a day of action.

Ways to Serve Your Community this MLK Day

Serving others is not just about altruism, it is a great way to spend a day off and honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Donate Gently Used Clothes and Shoes

Fill two needs with one deed and use your day off to declutter your closet and help others. Items that you no longer wear such as shoes, coats, pants, shirts, blouses and even purses and eyeglasses can become another person’s treasure. Donate your items to a worthy cause dedicated to improving the lives of those in need. Purging your closet to help those in need is a great way to spend your day off while doing good. Check out the following organizations to find a worthy cause you support:

Visit a Nursing Home or Senior Living Community

It is estimated that as many as 60-percent of nursing home residents never have visitors. Unfortunately, nursing home abuse and negligence are more likely to occur when residents have little to no visitors. Not only will you do some good in holding nursing homes accountable, but these nursing homes often rely on volunteers to interact with residents. For example, you can volunteer to call bingo, wow residents with your musical talents or even use your humanitarian clown act to entertain residents.

Prepare Displacement Kits for Families

While the Red Cross and other organizations step up to help families in the aftermath of a fire or natural disaster, you can still do your part to help displaced families. Even if some of the items in a family’s home can be salvaged, it can take weeks or even months to get clothes and other items returned. Displaced families need basic necessities such as clean clothes, sleepwear, and new underwear. Additionally, you can collect food, feminine and other hygiene products, pet food, diapers or gift cards to local stores to aid the family.

Do a Random Act of Kindness

While the number of businesses who give employees the MLK Day of Service holiday off continues to grow, more than 50 percent of workers will still have to report for duty on Jan. 21. However, even if you have the time to volunteer, you can still perform a kind act for another person. Buy snacks for your coworkers, pay for the person’s coffee behind you at a coffee shop or even something as simple as holding the door open for someone. A simple act of kindness doesn’t require much work.

Martin Luther King Jr. died at the young age of 39. But in his short time, he spread a message of love, diversity, tolerance, and kindness. MLK Day is the perfect opportunity to bring the compassion and kindness into the world that he hoped to see. As you begin to consider ways that you can serve your community this Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it’s OK to think outside the box. Small gestures toward a specific individual can make just as big of an impact as volunteering to help hundreds.

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