Showing posts with label volunteerism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label volunteerism. Show all posts

Monday, January 21, 2013

MLK Day of Service - A Dream of Strengthening Communities

Everyone can achieve greatness through
community service work.
"Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve...You only need a heart full of grace." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said those words to a congregation in Atlanta, Georgia in 1968. He was talking about serving our fellow man and our communities, regardless of our status or abilities. Everyone can achieve greatness through community service work.

The US Congress designated the Martin Luther King Junior Federal Holiday as a day of service that occurs on the third Monday of January. Through volunteerism, people can use this holiday as a day to start a new project of national & community service, or take that day off to give back to their community as part of an annual tradition.

community service work
One of the most prominent civil rights leaders,
Dr. King, Jr. taught us about strengthening
our communities through service.
There are many reasons to volunteer on MLK day. Dr. King Jr., one of the most well-known civil rights leaders, envisioned a "beloved community" where people worked together to strengthen communities, empower individuals, bridge barriers and create solutions. Our service can be part of a larger, community project, such as helping at a shelter or food bank, or it can be more personal, for example, helping an elderly neighbor with their grocery shopping, or walking their dog. It can even be providing company for someone who is confined to their home due to illness, perhaps reading to them or watching a movie together.

How can you serve on MLK Jr Day? The Corporation for National & Community Service provides a website where you can find volunteer opportunities in your area by entering your zip code on their site. You can also plan your own project using their toolkit. The projects that are listed include educating people in your community about disaster preparedness, providing tax preparation, helping veterans, environmental causes and health issues. Search for volunteer opportunities that fit into your schedule and suit your interests by visiting

If you would like to learn more facts about Martin Luther King, there are many online sources. The History channel's website has a brief biography and links for videos of Dr. King's speeches. Watch and listen to his acceptance speech at the 1964 Nobel Peace prize award ceremony. Visit The King Center online to learn more about MLK Jr.

Did You Know that....

  • Martin Luther King, Jr.'s real name was Michael? His father changed their first name when MLK Jr. was about five years old.
  • Was named Time magazine's man of the year in 1963?
  • Was the youngest person to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, at that time, 1964?

These and other Martin Luther King Jr facts can be found on the CNN website.

Some people tell us they decide to take a more personal view of community service and to do something for friends and neighbors they know are struggling. One reader told us she downloaded FamilyWize cards and kept them in her purse to give to people behind her in the pharmacy line.  Another sent an email with a link to everyone she knew and asked them to help too.

So how will you serve this year? Please share your experience with us in the comments section. Remember, it can be in a big way or a small way, either way, your contribution is making the dream of strengthening your community a reality.

Dream Big, a mosaic of Dr. King Jr.
by artist Pete Fecteau is constructed of
Rubik's Cubes.
(Image from
The image above is made entirely of Rubik's Cubes. Called, Dream Big, Pete Fecteau spent forty hours constructing this work of art. Read the story and watch the video of his creation on his website, along with other images he has created.

Caroline Carr
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Volunteering for Holidays

If you take the time to think about words like “giving,” “volunteering,” and “charity,” a slew of quotes and phrases may come to mind. It is better to give than to receive. A season of giving… You may even remember a quote from Henry David Thoreau, “One is not born into the world to do everything but to do something.” This is a good reminder for us all – every little bit does make a difference. No matter if we are speaking in terms of charitable donations or hours volunteered at local charities and support organizations.

Volunteering for the holidays can be a heartwarming activity by yourself or in the company of friends or family. First, think about this question – What is volunteerism? What does volunteerism mean to you? Perhaps visions of volunteering at a soup kitchen come to mind. Maybe you see yourself helping to organize a charity gala or other big benefit.

Places to Volunteer Your Time and Talents

If you are wondering how you can get started or where you should volunteer your time, you are not alone. Many of us want to do something, but we don't know where to start.

Some great places to volunteer, especially around the holidays, include:
  • Animal shelters
  • Food banks
  • Homeless shelters
  • Hospitals and medical centers 
  • Orphanages
  • Senior citizens centers and nursing homes
  • Soup kitchens
  • Toys for Tots and similar programs
Additionally, some meaningful community service efforts may be another way for you to get involved in the well being of your community and  areas. Consider cleaning up parks, roads, and public areas, serving as a mentor, or even giving your time through a program for underprivileged children.

If you are still looking for ideas in your local area, check to see if you can find a volunteer network to connect you with a cause or a group in need. Volunteer Match and Great Nonprofits are online services that can help you find a charity or important cause where you can volunteer your time and assistance in your area.

A great way to find volunteer opportunities is through the United Way. Give, Advocate, Volunteer. With its network of over a thousand community based United Ways, they are able to coordinate individuals, communities and businesses to work together to make stronger communities and a stronger world. If time is your concern, remember that you can also volunteer online through the United Way.

community service
Volunteer with the Red Cross.
Helping Our Neighbors in Need

Just a month ago we suffered through one of the greatest storms on the upper East Coast due to the high winds and heavy rains of Hurricane Sandy. Many families were without power for days, if not a week or more. The American Red Cross and the Humane Society NY and NJ work to gather supplies to help disaster victims, families, individuals and pets, make it through these tough days until their power is restored and their homes are repaired. These organizations need volunteers, supplies and water.

community service
Pets make great
volunteers for the elderly.
Another way to contribute time is to help an elderly neighbor clear away debris from the storm, or assist with other small tasks that may be too difficult for an older person to handle. Make the time to visit shut-ins and the elderly in local nursing homes and hospice care units to bring a smile to those who may be lonely or depressed.

If your family has a dog and you have some free time on your hands, you might also consider training your pet as a therapy dog. These well-trained, friendly canines bring joy to young children and senior citizens alike.

It’s Never Too Late to Lend a Helping Hand

My first memories of volunteering date back to high school at Bethlehem Catholic, where we had to satisfy 20 hours of community service to graduate (or perhaps it was every year – the memories are just a bit fuzzy). My friend and I coached a little league soccer team and I also tutored younger kids to help them in school. I am sure I volunteered at other points, doing other things, but these are the most memorable occasions.

If you have a hospital near you, you might also be able to serve as a medical volunteer. Food and clothing drives can also be meaningful ways to volunteer time and energy.

Even if you only have a little time to dedicate, your actions speak louder than words. Giving an hour or two of your time once or twice around the holidays to help those less fortunate… the emotional rewards are greater than any holiday gift you can buy.

By Kathryn M. D’Imperio
Contributing Writer