MLK Day of Service Kicks Off Year of Citizen Action

Jan 16, 2014


Hundreds of thousands of Americans to help create economic opportunities in their communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Monday, thousands of organizations across the country are preparing to lead Americans in the nation's largest day of civic engagement, the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service.

With an emphasis on creating economic opportunities, citizens in all 50 states will deliver meals, refurbish schools and community centers, and collect food and clothing. Volunteers will also recruit mentors, support job-seekers, build homes and provide other services for veterans and military families, and help citizens improve their financial literacy skills.

“The MLK Day of Service reminds all of us that we can make a difference in our communities,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). “Volunteering is a core American tradition that can help lift up a community’s spirits and improve its economic well-being. As citizens work alongside each other to solve problems, they will gain valuable skills and experience and be inspired to volunteer year-round.”

In 1994, Congress designated MLK Day as the first and only federal holiday observed as a national day of service, and charged CNCS with leading this effort.  In addition, President Obama announced a Task Force on Expanding National Service in July. The task force calls on the public and private sectors to work together to further engage citizens in the work of moving our nation forward.

CNCS provides grants to six national organizations that play a leadership role in the MLK Day of Service. Those organizations are The Cesar Chavez Foundation, Points of Light, HOPE worldwide, Service for Peace, Wisconsin Campus Compact, and Youth Service America.

In addition to these grantees, more than 30 other organizations, including AARP, American Red Cross, America's Promise, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and Habitat for Humanity and United Way of America, are strategic partners.

Officials at CNCS are encouraging Americans to visit  to find MLK Day and year-round volunteer opportunities in their own communities.

Sample projects are highlighted below. More information, including details about local service opportunities, is available at

  • Atlanta: Hands On Atlanta will mobilize more than 3,000 volunteers to participate in projects across the city that focus on poverty alleviation and the beautification of historic sites dedicated to civil rights leaders and neighborhoods. As part of an ongoing Hands On Atlanta initiative, AmeriCorps members will serve as classroom moderators and engage elementary, middle, and high school students in civic education lessons related to King’s life and legacy.
  • Bloomington, Ind.: More than 3,000 volunteers will participate in service activities throughout Bloomington. Volunteers will, among other tasks, conduct eye exams, serve at food banks, help with food delivery, and contribute to beautification and environmental projects.
  • Boston: AmeriCorps Community HealthCorps members will join community partners to offer a Community Health and Wellness Fair at Tubman House, providing preventive health screenings, nutrition and physical fitness, dental health, and other services.
  • Des Moines, Iowa: Volunteers will package kits for a local shelter during an event organized by Community!Youth Concepts and Youth Service America. AmeriCorps members have been instrumental in this process by recently collecting donations for the kits. Governor Branstad will participate in the annual MLK Ceremony.
  • Detroit, Mich.: Over three days, 33 AmeriCorps members will lead 300 community volunteers to board up and secure 31 vacant and abandoned homes near three Detroit public schools to create safer routes to school for children.  The project was organized by the AmeriCorps Urban Safety Corps, an initiative launched by Governor Rick Snyder and the Mayor of Detroit last November.
  • Los Angeles: More than 1,000 corporate and community volunteers mobilized by L.A. Works, the Cesar Chavez Foundation, and other partners will help revitalize the campus of the Hillcrest Elementary School.
  • New Jersey: More than 2,000 volunteers will participate in nearly 40 service projects organized by Jersey Cares throughout 13 counties in New Jersey. Volunteers will serve hot meals, collect and sort winter coats, create sensory activity kits for students with learning disabilities, and participate in home repairs, beach cleanups, and other Hurricane Sandy relief projects.
  • Philadelphia: Mayor Michael Nutter will join 125,000 volunteers who will serve in 1,700 projects throughout the region. At the city’s signature project site—Girard College—5,000 volunteers will participate in a variety of workshops and trainings, including the 3rd annual Jobs and Opportunity Fair.
  • Phoenix, Ariz.: AmeriCorps VISTA and Hands On Greater Phoenix will join the City of Mesa, Mesa United Way, and the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits to help rejuvenate the home of a local veteran.  Volunteers will also sweep the neighborhood to inform the community about the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program and the Earned Income Tax Credit.  
  • Pittsburgh, Pa.: AmeriCorps Director Bill Basl will join 80 AmeriCorps members and alums serving with Rebuilding Together to repair homes for veteran and senior citizen homeowners in need.
  • Portland, Ore.: Students from Portland State University and nine additional colleges will serve together in a day of service organized by Campus Compact. Student volunteers will disperse throughout 23 different sites to clean up neighborhoods and complete outdoor and indoor maintenance projects near local schools. Participants will also prepare career readiness kits for more than 7,000 local high school students. Senator Jeff Merkley will close a kick-off rally at the David Douglas High School.
  • Washington, D.C.: Among other projects, 130 City Year AmeriCorps members will lead more than 600 volunteers in transforming three D.C. public schools into more engaging, educational and vibrant places for students to learn and play through repairing walls, painting murals, cleaning, and small construction projects. In addition, Habitat for Humanity of Washington, D.C. will lead a team of volunteers and AmeriCorps members in building affordable housing for low-income veterans’ families as part of the Homes for Vets initiative.
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