Here’s how to get involved and help out on the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service on January 16

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“Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thinking about helping out fellow Charlotteans as part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Day of Service on Saturday, January 16? You’re not alone. The MLK, Jr. National Day of Service is one of the most popular days of the year to volunteer, says Eric Law, executive director of local no-profit Hands on Charlotte, located in Plaza Midwood.

“A volunteer organization like ours sees a real bump in service numbers at the beginning of the year,” says Law, a bump he attributes to the MLK Day of Service and to New Year’s Resolutions. “Dr. King’s legacy of service is a really important part of what he stood for throughout his life,” Law says, “and this is great way to keep that legacy and memory alive.”

Volunteers-at-Marie-G-Davis-MLK-Day-2015

Photo via the Hands On Charlotte Facebook page

This year Hands on Charlotte and the city of Charlotte have created a series of family friendly volunteer opportunities at two locations on Saturday, January 16* from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.: East Mecklenburg High School and at the Military Global Leadership Academy at Marie G. Davis.

Volunteers are welcome to drop in at either location on January 16 but are encouraged to RSVP by visiting www.handsoncharlotte.org so that staff can estimate rough numbers at each location. (*note that the date of service was rescheduled from Sunday, January 17, to avoid conflict with the Panthers playoff game)

Children-Volunteer-at-MLK-Day-2014

Photo courtesy of Tom Schellin Photography

Both locations will feature fun, kid-friendly projects including:

  • Sanitizing and gift wrapping children’s books for Promising Pages
  • Sorting nails for Habitat for Humanity
  • Making Valentine’s Day candygrams for children
  • Crafting jump ropes out of recycled plastic grocery bags for refugee children for ourBridge
  • Donating blood for the Community Blood Center for the Carolinas (at EMHS only)
Young-Volunteer-Bookmarks-MLK-service

Photo courtesy of Tom Schellin Photography

Helping-Hands-at-MLK-Day-2014

Photo courtesy of Tom Schellin Photography

These simple projects are designed to be accessible to everyone. Law calls them “portable projects” because they can be easily transported back to their partner organizations. They also serve as an easy way to introduce individuals, families, and even children to volunteering and its impact on the community.

While MLK Day is one of the most popular days to volunteer all year, Law says many who volunteer for the first time on MLK Day continue to do so all year round, especially after they find a volunteer program that interests them.

Hands On Charlotte lists and manages 100 to 150 volunteer projects a month on its website and, after an initial one hour training session as a one-time $20 fee, volunteers are given a T-shirt and sent on their way.  “Most people try different projects until they find the one that lights their fire,” Law says.

More organizations are volunteering in groups, too, with Hands on Charlotte planning, organizing, and managing as many as 1,000 volunteers at project sites.

Photo via the Hands On Charlotte Facebook page

Photo via the Hands On Charlotte Facebook page

“Charlotte is a rapidly growing city and there are some pretty pressing needs due to the city’s growth,” Law says, “and volunteering is a great way to learn more about the community and its needs.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Day of Service is a great time to try volunteering in Charlotte. If you do, I’ll see you at East Mecklenburg High School on January 16.

Cover image courtesy of Tom Schellin Photography 

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Brendan Wilhide
| @brendanwilhide
Brendan is a Charlotte writer.