Wednesday, January 7, 2009

MLK Day Service Project Ideas

An excerpt from our monthly Asset Messenger. To subscribe to the free monthly newsletter, send me an email at ann(at)theassetedge(dot)net.

MLK Day – A Day ON, Not A Day OFF
"We have an opportunity to make a better nation." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 19, 2009, is a holiday for many schools and businesses. Congress has designated it as a national day of volunteer service. Instead of taking a day off from work or school, Americans are challenged to “celebrate Dr. King's legacy by turning community concerns into citizen action” ( And serving others is one of the best ways you can nurture assets in children and youth.

How can your family or group serve on MLK Day? You might choose to serve a meal at a homeless shelter, make care packages for senior citizens, or paint over graffiti. You could host a field day at a recreation center, bake cookies for teachers, or clean the apartment of an AIDS victim. The possibilities are endless!

Volunteering doesn’t have to be ‘just another thing’ on your to do list this month. It can be a natural outflow of your interests and talents, an opportunity to build relationships, and a great way to build memories. Here are some steps to get you started:

1. Ask group members about their skills, talents and passions – what do they love to do? Your list might include basketball, painting, singing, or playing games. Or organizing, hospitality, and making new friends.
2. Ask them what they would like to see change in the community (or neighborhood or school). You might hear interest areas such as the homeless, people with physical challenges, helping children learn to read, bullying or breaking up school cliques.
3. See where group strengths and community needs overlap, and start with a simple service project.
• If your group likes music and they are concerned about loneliness in nursing homes, plan a time to go sing with friends at a local nursing home.
• If your group loves sports and they are concerned about their peers getting involved in negative activities, ask if you can host a family sports night at the gym.
• If your group enjoys playing board games or working puzzles, call a homeless shelter to see if you can host a game night after an evening meal.
• If you have an artistic group, you might paint a mural at church, at school, or at a community center.
• If you love the outdoors, you might encourage people to recycle or pick up trash on a hiking excursion.

You were created with unique skills and talents – how will you use those gifts to make your community stronger on MLK Day and throughout the year?

If your group wants to explore volunteering and service-learning more deeply, check out our new book, “Ready-to-Go Service Projects: 140 Ways for Youth Groups to Lend a Hand”. It has 17 interactive lesson plans to help youth groups discover meaningful service opportunities and 17 topical issues with service project ideas. It also explores the connections between faith and service. You can find it online at your favorite bookseller.

Find more ideas for volunteering and nurturing children and youth on our blog at