Report on 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service

Feb 22, 2012

Americans Honor the Life and Legacy of Dr. King
Hundreds of Thousands Volunteer on 2012 MLK Day of Service

“Today, we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And we should honor that legacy by acting as drum majors for service and lifting up those less fortunate – not just today, but every day”

-President Obama, MLK Day of Service, January 16, 2012

Dr. King believed that the work we undertake on behalf of others was the “new definition of greatness.” On January 16, 2012, hundreds of thousands of Americans of all ages and backgrounds demonstrated their greatness by joining in volunteer service projects across the country to honor Dr. King on the 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama joined cabinet secretaries, governors, mayors, nonprofit and business leaders, students, families, and others in honoring Dr. King's legacy through service projects addressing a multitude of pressing social issues from poverty and illiteracy to hunger to homelessness.

A special focus of the 2012 MLK Day of Service was advancing Dr. King's dream of economic opportunity. Volunteers offered free tax preparation, held workshops on college access, and offered help in job searching, resume writing, and interview preparation. In addition, Americans made it a “a day on, not a day off” by weatherizing homes, delivering meals, refurbishing schools, collecting food and clothing, reading to children, and more. The First Family joined Robert Velasco II, Acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, AmeriCorps members, and community volunteers at a community service project at the Browne Education Campus in Washington in honor of Dr. King's life and legacy.

Dr. King worked for increased opportunity for all Americans. Now more than ever we need to continue to work to create and support opportunities for Americans to strengthen their own and each other's economic security. The 2012 MLK Day of Service, led by the Corporation for National and Community Service - made an important impact in this direction.


  • Thousands of projects in all 50 states that engaged hundreds of thousands of Americans in meeting local needs
  • Strong Administration participation including President Obama, Vice President Biden, and more than a dozen Cabinet Secretaries and senior Administration officials
  • Extensive involvement by bipartisan elected officials including 40 Members of Congress, 26 governors, 5 Lieutenant Governors, 2 Secretaries of State and more than 60 Mayors, State Representatives, or other local officials.
  • Significant corporate involvement from major US companies that supported projects with funding and volunteers
  • Recognized more than 2,000 volunteers with Drum Majors for Service Awards
  • Launched partnership with Scholastic to distribute MLK Day Curriculum that was downloaded more than 5,100 times 
  • Extensive media coverage with more than 1,100 media stories with the potential to reach nearly every American

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Project Highlights

Through the 2012 MLK Service Network, organizations across the country engaged hundreds of thousands of volunteers, creating significant impact in our nation's priority areas. Below are highlights from the network.

Economic Opportunity

  • Central Missouri Community Action - MO
    For one low-come community in central Missouri, MLK Day will continue throughout the year. More than 200 neighborhood residents and businesses committed 348 hours of services worth more than $11,000 to improve economic opportunity for local families. Commitments were made in the form of certificates for auto repair, haircuts, computer repair, appliance maintenance, and construction, and rides to the hospital. The donations are expected to help 200 families with employment services and other needs during these tough economic times.
  • Boston Cares – Boston, MA
    More than 500 volunteers, about half of whom were youth, donated or produced items for local nonprofit organizations including 23 quilts, 250 fleece blankets for low-income families with infants, 544 fleece scarves for the New England Center for Homeless Veterans, 264 letters to deployed military members, and 106 homemade granola bars for the Boys and Girls clubs of Boston Blue Hills Clubhouse.


  • Financial Aid for College - Fairbanks, Alaska
    Recognizing that financial aid is often the biggest barrier for low income and first generation college hopefuls, AmeriCorps VISTAs in Fairbanks distributed thousands of brochures and flyers about the Alaska College Savings Plan, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and scholarships for Alaskans, as well as upcoming scholarship workshops for families.
  • College Students and Volunteers Revitalize Local School – Portland, Oregon
    Under the theme of education as civil rights, nearly 1,000 college students - representing 10 Oregon colleges and universities organized by Campus Compact - supported the resurgence of Roosevelt High School in North Portland. Along with notable volunteers including Portland Mayor Sam Adams, Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown, State legislators Lew Frederick and Alisa Kenya-Guyer, and Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schrunk, students deep cleaned the school, provided landscaping, painted two music rooms, helped organize the library, cleared a path to ensure that it is ADA accessible, developed materials for an anti-bullying campaign, and created tip sheets for the high school students on achieving college success. Students also participated in Red Cross disaster training.

Environmental Stewardship

  • The 6th Branch - Operation Oliver - Baltimore, MD
    As part of a one-year commitment to revitalize the Oliver neighborhood in Baltimore – an area known for vacant homes, poverty, and crime – The 6th Branch, an organization that uses the leadership skills of military veterans, recruited 145 volunteers, led by 12 veterans, to clean up 12 square blocks of the neighborhood and fill a 40-yard dumpster with debris from backyards of boarded up houses and empty lots. Organizers also educated volunteers on the revitalization of the neighborhood and led tours of renovated homes.
  • Heart of Texas (HOT) Urban Gardening Coalition – Waco, TX
    The HOT Urban Gardening Coalition supports gardening as a means of building community. More than 1,000 volunteers served with 16 community and school garden sites to plant spring crops, build raised beds, harvest vegetables, create compost bins, install an irrigation system for a community garden, and clean up neighborhoods. Some of the freshly harvested produce was delivered to the Salvation Army.
  • E-cycling at Girard College - North Philadelphia, PA
    Twenty-five volunteers filled two huge trucks with residential electronic devices that will be deconstructed for the plastics, circuitry and other parts to be reused or disposed of safely. This service provided a free, convenient and secure way for residents to dispose of and recycle residential electronic devices rather than putting them in the trash.

Healthy Futures

  • Gadsden State Community College Health Fair – Gadsden, AL
    Through a collaboration of 43 agencies, including RSVP Etowah County, more than 100 families received health and wellness services including preventative screenings and blood pressure checks provided by two hospitals, prevention information from the Cancer Center, advanced screenings from a physical therapist, and prescription assistance from RSVP volunteers. Additionally, families that attended the fair were offered free income tax assistance from RSVP volunteers.
  • "Warming the Hearts and Soles of the Less Fortunate” - Corpus Christi, TX
    Texas Senior Corps Volunteers, along with community volunteers from the City of Robstown, council members, Nueces County Community Centers, and Robstown Independent School District assembled and distributed care bags for the homeless. Volunteers stuffed 400 bags with donated snacks, juice, blankets, and socks.

Disaster Preparedness

  • Montana Tech Campus Corps and RSVP “Stop, Drop, and Read” – Butte, MT
    Two local fire stations opened their doors to 36 elementary-aged children. Following the pledge of allegiance led by military veterans, fire fighters read to students, took them on a tour of the fire station, and taught fire safety tips. Each child received three books and a $10 book store gift certificate to start their own libraries.

Veterans/Military Families

  • Valentines for Veterans - Adams County, OH
    Youth volunteers from six 4-H Clubs in Adams County, Ohio, created 19 no-sew blankets for Project Linus, dozens of Valentines cards for veterans, and 20 care packages for deployed soldiers stationed overseas.
  • Milburn School Connects with Afghanistan on MLK Day - Milburn, NJ
    More than 500 Hartshorn Elementary students serving with 75 adult volunteers, including retired and active duty military families, collected toiletries and small supplies the week prior to MLK Day and spent MLK Day making care packages for soldiers in Afghanistan. Students prepared questions ahead of time and spoke with soldiers stationed at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan to connect their service to the men and women who will receive the packages.

MLK Day Service Leaders

With grants from the Corporation for National and Community Service, the MLK Day Service leaders mobilized more than 160,000 Americans to impact communities in the following ways:

  • Campus Compact mobilized more than 14,000 volunteers across 65 campuses in 26 states. Volunteers, including 142 national service members, completed 36,817 hours of service focused on education, health, economic opportunity, and disaster preparedness. Volunteers wrote 532 letters to troops, mentored 719 at-risk youth, prepared nearly 5,000 hygiene kits, collected and donated more than 15,000 pounds of food, and created 83,582 food kits.
  • The Cesar Chavez Foundation mobilized 1,250 volunteers to complete 6,250 volunteer service hours throughout the Southwest and Western region of the nation, focusing on education through digital literacy programs, community educational events, and service learning projects. In Tucson, AZ, volunteers conducted presentations about tolerance and bullying prevention. Organizers in Albuquerque, NM hosted a forum and service fair to highlight social services available to underserved communities. In San Francisco, students and community volunteers served together on the renovation and landscaping of a local high school.
  • HOPE worldwide – with help from its national partner, the American Red Cross – mobilized 5,609 volunteers across 75 cities to complete more than 21,000 service hours devoted to fire safety and emergency preparedness. In Chattanooga, TN, volunteers provided education and training to residents in four Chattanooga Housing Authority buildings and fire extinguishers to equip individual apartments. In Washington, DC, 160 volunteers from the Jewish Community Center passed out whistles at a homeless shelter to female residents who said they felt unsafe in the neighborhood after dark. Volunteers from Missouri Southern State University distributed 600 smoke detectors to high-risk neighborhoods near the campus.
  • With more than 112,400 volunteers, the Points of Light focused its efforts on veterans and families. Projects included weatherizing homes, beautifying schools, and serving meals to veterans. HandsOn Greater DC, in Washington, DC, gathered volunteers to revitalize Kenilworth Elementary School, converting storage areas into usable space and creating a more positive learning environment. In Philadelphia, the Points of Light supported the Greater Philadelphia MLK Day of Service, the largest project in the nation. More than 85,000 volunteers served throughout the region in some 1,300 projects, including the signature project at Girard College in North Philadelphia where 150 activities took place, including service projects, workshops, Kids' Carnival, Health & Wellness Fair, Civic Engagement Expo and a first Jobs & Opportunity Fair.
  • Establishing momentum through its MLK Day food drive initiative – which partnered faith-based institutions with local organizations to collect canned goods – Service for Peace mobilized more than 20,000 volunteers in 15 cities across 11 states, who provided 81,668 hours of service for MLK Day. Three elementary schools and 950 youth in Bloomington, IN, kicked off a book drive to promote literacy at a shelter for abused women and children that will last throughout the “40 Days of Peace.” Keep Tampa Beautiful, in Tampa Bay, FL, organized more than 25 park cleanups engaging 1,400 students, who filled hundreds of garbage bags. In Oakland, CA, more than 500 volunteers – mostly college students – enhanced and cleaned up the Gardens at Lake Merritt, a historic city site.
  • Youth Service America mobilized more than 19,500 volunteers to assist 17 organizations with service projects focused on health and human services. Volunteers served food to the homeless, helped repair buildings, beautified neighborhoods, collected donations for local Goodwill Stores, and gave support to active duty military members. Volunteers committed to over 67,100 hours of service on MLK Day. In Augusta, GA, 3,200 volunteers served 25,600 hours collecting, sorting, and creating 1,971 emergency hygiene kits from donation boxes that were set up through the community. These kits will be distributed to the area's homeless. In Boise, ID, working with Idaho's Operation: Military Kids program, 400 volunteers assembled Hero Packs--backpacks filled with donated items such as stuffed animals, journals, and a hand-written letter-- for military families.

White House and Cabinet

To honor the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Day of Service and Dr. King's life and legacy, the President and Mrs. Obama, the Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden, Cabinet Secretaries, and other senior administration officials participated in community service projects and events throughout the country

The First Family participated in a community service project sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service in conjunction with Big Brothers Big Sisters and Greater DC Cares at the Browne Education Campus in Washington, DC. The Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden traveled to Philadelphia, PA, to participate in the 17th annual Greater Philadelphia Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service.

Cabinet Secretaries and Senior Administration officials participated through the following:

  • Agriculture: Secretary Vilsack addressed Rainbow PUSH in Chicago to highlight USDA advancements on Civil Rights and the Obama administration's settlement of the Pigford lawsuit.
  • Commerce: Secretary Bryson participated in a community service event with Mayor Villaraigosa at Los Feliz Elementary School in Los Angeles, CA.
  • CNCS: The Corporation for National and Community Service CEO Robert Velasco II volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of D.C. Senior staff also served at We Feed Our People, a signature event that serves hundreds of homeless District residents with a hot meals and warm clothing, and at Montgomery County Volunteer Center in Bethesda.
  • Defense: On Thursday, January 26, Secretary Panetta participated in the annual commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at the Pentagon.
  • Education: Secretary Duncan and his family joined the City Year service day at Dunbar High School.
  • Energy: Secretary Chu hosted an event at the Department of Energy to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. King. Secretary Chu was joined by C.T. Vivian, Vice President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Lynn Cothern, former aide to Coretta Scott King.
  • EPA: Administrator Jackson delivered remarks at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day Prayer Breakfast hosted by the National Action Network in Washington, D.C.
  • Justice: Attorney General Holder spoke at the NAACP's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event in Columbia, S.C. On Sunday, January 15, he spoke at the Annual Utah Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Commission Luncheon. And on Monday, January 30, he attended the Department of Justice's 2012 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Commemorative Program.
  • Labor: Secretary Solis delivered remarks and accepted an award at the “At the River I Stand,” the AFL-CIO's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day observance dinner in Detroit, MI.
  • NASA: Administrator Bolden addressed the 44th Martin Luther King, Jr., Commemorative Service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA.
  • OPM: Director of the Office of Personnel Management John Berry delivered remarks and participated in a service project at “Hope and a Home” in Washington, D.C.
  • Transportation: Deputy Secretary Porcari commemorated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day at Tyler Elementary School in Washington, D.C. Volunteers contributed to the beautification of the school by painting slogans, murals, and math equations to help lead the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day reflection activity.
  • USAID: USAID Administrator Shah participated in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library's 25th annual “We Feed Our People” event in Washington, D.C.
  • USUN: Ambassador Rice participated in a service event to benefit Kenilworth Elementary in Washington, D.C.
  • VA: Secretary Shinseki volunteered at So Others Might Eat serving food to the homeless in Washington, D.C.

Elected Officials

In a showing of broad bipartisan support, elected officials from every level of government participated in the 2012 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. These officials recognized the importance of national and community service in meeting critical national needs and helped to make MLK Day a “day on, not a day off.”

More than 40 members of Congress participated in the Day of Service by speaking at events, requesting projects in their state/district, or issuing calls to service. More than 30 congressional staffers responded to participate in either the City Year or Serve DC service projects. Also, the Congressional Service Caucus wrote and distributed a “Dear Colleague” letter to every member of the House of Representatives encouraging service on MLK Day.

Elected officials from all levels of the state and local levels of government also participated in and recognized the MLK Day of Service. Twenty-six governors, five Lieutenant Governors, and two Secretaries of State participated directly in the day of service through such activities as serving in volunteer projects, issuing proclamations or calls to service, or writing op-eds. At the local level, more than 60 Mayors, State Representatives, or other local officials also recognized the Day of Service.

Drum Majors for Service

The Drum Majors for Service is a program, inaugurated during the 2011 MLK Day of Service, whereby organizations and groups can acknowledge and celebrate those volunteers who perform extraordinary everyday acts of service with reliability and commitment, but who seldom receive recognition. Drum Major awardees may also be presented with a President's Volunteer Service Award (PVSA) through CNCS, for which they receive a pin, certificate of achievement and a (standardized) letter from the President of the United States.

The number of Drum Major awards given out in 2012 quadrupled from last year, with more than 2,400 Drums Majors recognized throughout the country. The White House held a Champions of Change event honoring volunteers who have acted in the spirit of Dr. King, and President Obama honored African American civil rights activists with Drum Major awards.

Strategic Partners

More than 100 MLK Day of Service strategic partners signed on to promote service on MLK Day through their networks, and/or organize projects themselves. A full list is available on the Strategic Partners page of

MLK Day Strategic Partners pledged to help advance and promote the MLK Day of Service by holding service activities in at least three different cities or states. These projects promoted the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service and at least one of the Corporation for National and Community Service focus areas. Their projects celebrated Drum Major for Service Awardees as well as included local public officials. Here is a sampling of our strategic partners:

  • Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
  • Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
  • American Red Cross
  • Be the Change, Inc.
  • Blue Star Families
  • Campus Kitchens Project
  • Communities in Schools
  • Rebuilding Together
  • The National Urban League
  • George Washington University
  • Greater DC Cares
  • Habitat for Humanity International
  • ServiceNation

View the detailed list of the MLK Network and Strategic Partners here.

Service Ambassadors

The Ambassadors of Service help generate awareness about volunteering on the MLK Day of Service among a broad audience and promote service as part of the solution to our nation's most pervasive challenges. This year's Ambassadors have exhibited an ongoing commitment to service and volunteering, and believe that service can move our nation one step closer to realizing Dr. King's dream. See a detailed list here:

  • John Bridgeland, President & CEO, Civic Enterprises
  • Ruby Bridges, Civil Rights Leader
  • David Eisner, CEO and President of the National Constitution Center and former CEO of CNCS
  • Isaac Newton Farris Jr., National President/CEO Southern Christian Leadership Conference
  • Michael B. Jordan, Actor, Writer
  • Kevin Liles, President and CEO of KWL Management
  • Herman "Skip" Mason, Jr., 33rd General President, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity
  • Marc H. Morial, President and CEO, The National Urban League
  • The Honorable Harris Wofford, Former U.S. Senator and CEO of CNCS under President Bill Clinton

Corporate Involvement

For a growing number of U.S. companies, the MLK Day of Service is an opportunity to invest money, supplies, and employee time to make a difference in their communities and honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. In this time of economic challenge for the nation, Dr. King's vision of service and volunteering are more critical than ever. Here are several examples of companies supporting the MLK Day of Service:

  • Accenture: Partnering with HandsOn Greater DC Cares and the Future Project at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C., Accenture volunteers led a workshop on college preparedness for the mentee attendees at this event. In line with the education and service focus of the event, Accenture volunteers worked with these young adults to promote college preparedness and inspire conversation and learning around the importance of higher education.
  • AllState marked the King Day of Service with their 4th Annual AllState Give Back Day, a national event that emphasizes the importance of giving back to communities across the U.S. and engages consumers in key markets to participate in service activities alongside Allstate employees and agency owners.
  • ARAMARK: More than 50 ARAMARK volunteers participated in a variety of projects including a health fair, a job fair and a high school renovation project in the company's headquarters city of Philadelphia. At Girard College in North Philadelphia, employees led nutrition educational sessions at an ARAMARK Building Community Eat Smart Zone at the community health fair. In addition, ARAMARK's human resources and staffing center professionals participated the first-ever Greater Philadelphia King Day of Service Jobs Opportunity Fair, offering job search skills and discussing ARAMARK job opportunities.
  • Baltimore Gas and Electric employees spent the day supporting the work of local nonprofits, including helping paint Barclay Elementary Middle School, assisting with the Moveable Feast program to provide meals to less fortunate families; and helping with preparations for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade.
  • Kaiser Permanente Mid-Atlantic hosted two community health and wellness open house events that were free and open to the public, with locations at the Colmar Manor Community Center in Prince George's County, Md. and ACCA Child Development Center in Annandale, Va.
  • Kaiser Permanente San Diego: For the eighth consecutive year, Kaiser Permanente San Diego physicians and staff honored civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by volunteering their time and services at three community organizations throughout San Diego County. More than 120 Kaiser Permanente employees and physicians sorted food, picked up trash, paint, spruced up buildings and landscaped facilities.
  • Marriott: On Friday, January 13, chefs from Marriott Inc., and DC Central Kitchen, the high school chefs from St. Andrews Episcopal High School, Gonzaga College High School, Archbishop Williams High School (Boston, MA), Atlantic City High School (N.J.) and Hospitality High School of Washington, D.C., competed while producing 150 meals for Bethesda Cares, an organization dedicated to assisting and feeding the homeless in the DC Metro area. Students from the competing schools regularly prepare and distribute food to those in need in their communities through The Campus Kitchens Project.
  • Target: Target team members engaged in volunteer projects across the nation, partnering with local organizations to carry out a wide variety of activities, including 1,200 team members volunteering with Chicago Cares and an event in New York City announcing Target's title sponsorship of NYC Service Corps education program.

Media Coverage

The 2012 MLK Day of Service generated extensive national, regional, and local media coverage, with more than 1,100 broadcast and print stories reaching hundreds of millions of Americans. CNCS and its partners expanded coverage in three key areas: placement of op-eds in regional markets; promoting the Drum Majors of Service in partnership with the White House; and coverage mentioning CNCS, our programs, and/or the website. Visit National Service in the News for links to more than 140 news stories. Key highlights:

New Media

CNCS fully integrated social media into all aspects of the 2012 MLK Day of Service. We had 200,000+ visits to this year. The MLK Day Facebook page grew from 19,000 fans to 23,272 with a total reach of about 60,000 in the dates leading up to MLK Day and our Twitter activity increased from 4,000 to 6,000 Twitter followers. Influential tweeters included Michelle Obama, who linked to from one of her tweets. Across the country, volunteers shared their stories using the #MLKDay hashtag, and hundreds of volunteers shared their stories of service on and through blog posts and email blasts, promoted highlights such as the Drum Majors for Service and the Legacy Videos which were featured on YouTubes's Nonprofit Channel.


Successful marketing components promoting the 2012 MLK Day of Service included the following:

  • CNCS collaborated with Scholastic to create and distribute MLK Day Curriculum focusing on Dr. King's legacy of service. The curriculum was downloaded more than 5,100 times, videos were viewed 6,400 times, and the curriculum landing page received more than 10,600 page views.

  • Created new MLK Day Legacy of Service videos and television and radio PSAs featuring civil rights leaders Congressman John Lewis, Ruby Bridges, Reverend Joseph E. Lowery, and former U.S. Senator Harris Wofford discussing Dr. King's legacy of service and asking all Americans to serve on King Day and beyond. The PSAs were played on the top five networks including CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN and the 30 second MLK Day Legacy PSA played on 8,000 theatre screens in the top media markets. YouTube's King Day feature on their Nonprofit Channel produced more than 9,800 viewings.

  • More than 6,000 orders were placed by community organizations and schools for MLK Day materials including posters, door hangers, bookmarks, stickers and DVDs.



The 2013 MLK Day of Service will take place on Monday, January 21, 2013.

We encourage you to get involved. For more information, visit

Media Contact

Samantha Jo Warfield
(202) 606-6775

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