By: NobleHour Special Contributor Dolly Duplantier
A New Year is upon us. Every January 1, I think about the resolutions I’ve made in the past and resolve to do again – eat better, exercise more, be more patient, get organized, etc., etc. While these are good resolutions, most of them really only affect me and my family. So, I decided my resolutions should be about something more than just improving myself. It’s time for me to help others – not in some grand way, but in simple ways every month. Therefore, rather than working on my resolutions just one month a year (January) and forgetting them the other 11 months, I’ve decided January is my starting point.
As we approach the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service and reflect on his message of civic engagement, let us embrace the fact that one person can make a difference. Just imagine if we stay true to that and what can happen with millions of individual acts of kindness and service. If one of your resolutions is to volunteer more, then the MLK Day of Service, is the perfect day to begin your transformation.
According to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), hundreds of thousands of Americans across the country will pledge over one million hours of service for the MLK Day of Service. Established in 1993, CNCS is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through programs like Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and the Volunteer Generation Fund.
The MLK Day of Service is part of United We Serve, the President’s national service initiative. In addition, it is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service – “a day on, not a day off!”
MLK Day is a chance to start the year off right by making an impact in your community. CNCS works with the King Center, other federal agencies, schools, nonprofit and community groups, faith-based organizations, and corporations throughout the U.S. to encourage everyone to volunteer and be engaged in their community by participating in one of thousands of organized service-oriented projects. From collecting food and clothing, to cleaning and painting schools and youth centers, or supporting veterans and visiting with the elderly, everyone can use the day off to make some kind of difference.
You don’t have to be part of a group to participate. There are many opportunities for individuals to take advantage of the day. Don’t know where to start? Here are a few tips:
Check with your student’s school’s service coordinator. Find out what they are doing and ask to help. Many schools have different events planned for the month of January, ranging from working with food pantries to educational seminars. The goal is to build the community through volunteering.
If you prefer to do something outside of school, then consider calling local faith based, community, or non-profit organizations or visit your city or state’s website for information about volunteer programs. Many have on-going service projects and are always looking for volunteers.
The NobleHour website lists thousands of community engagement opportunities throughout the U.S. In addition, our NobleCause grant winners offer some wonderful volunteer opportunities to help make our communities better. Last year, we awarded more than 100 grants to educational institutions and nonprofit organizations across the country to nurture acts of good and inspire greater civic-mindedness and volunteerism. These dedicated organizations address local challenges by working to end hunger, provide shelter, tutor students and adults, or assist people with basic human rights. Some provide disaster relief, while others help protect the environment.
The MLK Day of Service website can also help direct you to local opportunities to perform community service. If you can’t find anything that inspires you, create your own project with MLK Day Toolkits. Topics range from disaster services and education, to the environment, health, and writing letters to the troops.
If all of this seems overwhelming, don’t let that deter you. Remember, it’s about helping others. Check in on an elderly neighbor and pick up extra groceries for them. Go through your closets and donate your gently used clothing. Donate food to a local food pantry. As I mentioned before, it doesn’t have to be some grand gesture, but just a simple act of kindness. Start small and go from there.
My daughter and I decided to make sandwiches for the homeless. We filled bags with PB&J sandwiches, fruit, granola bars and a few pieces of chocolate. We took the subway downtown and then handed out the bags to homeless people we passed along the way. It was a cold day and there were not many people out, but we were able to help at least a few individuals. It wasn’t much, but it was a start in our New Year’s resolution to help others. It didn’t require a lot of planning and we had everything on hand. It was a simple act that we will strive to do more often.
January is the start of something new. MLK Day is a reminder to be an active part of our community, not just for a day or month, but every day in some manner. Helping others empowers us and strengthens our communities. What are you going to do this January? Let us know your progress each month!
Are you ready to make a difference? Let NobleHour help you get started.
Since 2007, NobleHour has proven to be the volunteer management solution for organizations across the nation. With its robust online platform, NobleHour enhances community engagement with a variety of innovative and transformative tools for finding, tracking, and measuring volunteer, service‐learning, and community service initiatives. With offices in Lakeland, FL, and Portland, OR, the NobleHour team is dedicated to empowering good in communities across the country.
The NobleCause grants, organized by NobleHour.com, were made possible by an anonymous donor within the GiveWell Community Foundation, which serves Polk County, Florida. The NobleCause grant competition, launched in 2015, invited high schools, school districts, colleges and universities, and nonprofits to identify and address a local challenge and to recruit and enrich the social responsibility of volunteers. 100 organizations were awarded $6,500 grants, while seven exemplary organizations were recognized at the $50,000 level. NobleHour.com is dedicated to using NobleCause to increase volunteerism that raises awareness at the local level and develops community members who can take action.
Dolly Duplantier is a freelance writer, editor, and social media specialist. She is the mother of three children, a college graduate, a college student and a high schooler. Writing about people and organizations who make a difference is one of the best aspects of her job!