Martin Luther King Jr. 'Day of Service' Activities Start Saturday

MLK Service Day coincides with the National Day of Service on Jan. 19, kicking off the three-day weekend, and culminating on Jan. 21. Tell us what this holiday means to you and how you will observe it?


Monday, Jan. 21 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

For some, the national holiday honoring the prominent civil rights activist is a time to give back and serve the community, be it through removing graffiti or picking up litter in a local park.

For others, it’s an opportunity to educate themselves about King and his life's work. And for others, it’s a time to just kick back and enjoy the prolonged weekend.

The 2013 commemoration of the King Holiday coincides with the 57th Presidential Inauguration, which will include a National Day of Service, continuing a tradition set four years ago when President-elect Obama and his family joined in the MLK National Day of Service the day before the official swearing in.

The two service days bookend the weekend on Jan. 19 and 21 respectively. The inaugural occasion serves as a kick-off to committing to ongoing service in our  communities, focusing on seven issue areas: health, faith, education, the environment, honoring our veterans and military families, community resilience, and economic development.

Service activities officially start Saturday, Jan. 19, with a few on Monday, locally. Plug your ZIP code into this National Day of Service search tool for service activities in 

Here are a few closest to home: 

Food Drive for Ecumenical Hunger Program is collecting food donations for the Ecumenical Hunger Program, which provides emergency food, clothing, case management, and household essentials to families in need in East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Palo Alto; 12 noon-5 p.m. and 6:30-8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19, First Baptist Church, 305 N. California Ave., Palo Alto.

National Day of Service Socks for Vets Drive - Peninsula Peace and Justice Center is collecting new socks and t-shirts (or other very gently used clothing items) for veterans enrolled in the Foundations of Recovery (addiction recovery) program at the Menlo Park VA medical facility. Donations can be dropped off anytime during PPJC's annual Martin Luther King Birthday Community Sing Along, 6:30-9:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19. Details here.

Paly Community Garden Service Hour - Help for one hour to weed, prune, pick up trash and get ready for spring planting at the Palo Alto High School community garden 9-10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 19. The Paly Garden is in between the tennis courts and the soccer field, near El Camino on Paly Campus, Palo Alto.

The Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department is holding a MLK Service Trail Day 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19, Santa Teresa County Park, San Jose.

The Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department is also holding a MLK Trail Service Day - Lexington Reservoir 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19, Lexington Reservoir, Los Gatos.

Saratoga High School students participate for the third year in the National Day of Service to honor MLK Jr.'s birthday by cooking meals for the homeless, making sack lunches and assembling care packages for military personnel deployed overseas 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 21 on campus, 20300 Herriman Ave., Saratoga. Details: nnookala@yahoo.com, or 408-366-1829.

American Red Cross Silicon Valley Chapter is hosting a MLK Day Disaster Preparedness Doorhanger Challenge and Scavenger Hunt 1-4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 21, Sonoma Chicken Coop, 200 E. Campbell Ave., Campbell.

Tell us—What does Martin Luther King Jr. Day mean to you? What are you doing to commemorate King’s legacy?

The Holiday's History

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, now a U.S. holiday, took 15 years to create.

Legislation was first proposed by Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan) four days after King was assassinated in 1968.

The bill was stalled, but Conyers, along with Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D-New York), pushed for the holiday every legislative session until it was finally passed in 1983, following civil rights marches in Washington. 

Then-president Ronald Reagan signed it into law. Yet it was not until 2000 that every U.S. state celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day by its name. Before then, states like Utah referred to the holiday more broadly as Human Rights Day. 

In 1994, Congress passed legislation encouraging the King federal holiday to be observed as a national day of service and charged the Corporation for National and Community Service with leading this national effort.

On the CNCS site, expresses it this way: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'"

TELL US: What does MLK Day mean to you? Tell us in the comments.


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