Make the pledge: Volunteer on MLK Day and throughout 2015


Monday is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, dedicated to commemorating the legacy of civil rights leader Dr. King. We can honor him by carrying on his good works and volunteering on Monday, which is also the MLK Day of Service.

Last year, volunteers tutored children and teens, assisted veterans and military families, helped economically disadvantaged people develop skills and find jobs, and fed thousands of hungry and homeless people. Those are just some of the opportunities available on the MLK Day of Service.

Obama’s call to action for community service

In June 2009, President Obama urged all Americans to commit to volunteering. “I’m calling on all Americans to make volunteering and community service part of your daily life and the life of this nation.”

Make the commitment to serve your community today and throughout the year. You can take the MLK Day Challenge and pledge a certain number of service hours for the year. Make the pledge here.

Find a volunteer opportunity of your own 

Donating money to a worthy cause is wonderful, but many would say that donating your time is even better – and more rewarding. If you haven’t made volunteering a regular part of your life yet, consider making a change in 2015. Getting started is easy. 

Find your issue

Do you get angry about climate change? Does it upset you to think of a child going to bed hungry? Do you find it unfair that some people don’t have the opportunities you think they deserve?

Think about the topics and issues that bother you. Those are the areas where you can make the biggest difference, whether it turns out to be the environment, education, animals, veterans’ issues, homelessness, illiteracy or something else.

Find a nonprofit nearby …

Then use those keywords to search on websites like, Volunteer Match or Idealist to find volunteer opportunities in your community.

Of course you don’t have to be so high tech about it. You probably know several organizations in your community that could use your help, including homeless shelters, soup kitchens, after-school programs, places of worship, recreation centers and more. Ask people you know in the community about opportunities that may not be advertised online.

… Or far away

Plenty of volunteer opportunities exist outside of your community and even outside of the country. If you’ve always wanted to travel, you can combine it with volunteer work for an extraordinary experience.

The Peace Corps and AmeriCorps are two of the most well-known programs, but also check out United Planet, International Volunteer Programs Association and Cross-Cultural Solutions for short-term and long-term volunteer abroad opportunities.

Note that some international programs expect you to volunteer your time as well as your money to fund your travel. Take budget into consideration when choosing the right match for you.

Make the commitment

Be realistic about your time. Some people prefer to volunteer a few hours every week, while others can’t commit regularly but choose to commit several hours to one large project, like building a house for Habitat for Humanity. The important thing is that when you make a commitment, you stick to it.

Photo: Brandon Bourdages /