A guide to volunteering on MLK Day of Service and beyond 


The Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service is a defining moment each year when Americans across the country take action to help build the Beloved Community of Dr. King’s dream. He believed the only way to make the Beloved Community a reality, was to roll up our sleeves and work for it everyday. His example is our call to action. 

In 1994, in recognition of Dr. King’s inspiring legacy of service and leadership to gain equality for all Americans, Congress designated the Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday as the only national day of service and charged AmeriCorps, the federal agency for national service and volunteerism, with leading this effort.   

At AmeriCorps, we are thrilled to work with thousands of partners across the country who are helping Americans to give back and share the power of service. Our goal is to spark a passion and create relationships between communities and individuals that extend past this day and support a new generation of civic-minded Americans. MLK Day of Service is a commemoration of Dr. King’s legacy and our nation’s commitment to service, but that legacy is more than just one day.   

Dr. King’s words and actions changed the nation. In 1968 he delivered a sermon that included these powerful words on which I often reflect: “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” 

These words captured the idea that service is not just a routine task for the few but rather a transcendent/uplifting/life-changing/poignant calling for the many. That is what MLK Day of Service is all about. And, each time you reach back, give back, open a door or eliminate a barrier, you keep Dr. King’s words and legacy alive. 

During the last quarter-century, the MLK Day of Service has grown as more Americans embrace the idea that taking an active role in their neighborhoods can help improve their communities. We hope MLK Day will not just be a day of service, but provide a time for Americans to consider how they will build a lifetime of service by volunteering in their communities on a regular basis or joining AmeriCorps. 

This year, Americans around the country will unite at thousands of service projects in all 50 states and U.S. territories. Together, neighbors, families, community leaders, nonprofit organizations, elected officials, schools and congregations will clean up a public space, collect food and clothing, mentor a young person, engage in dialogue to explore ways to address inequity, and more.  

No matter whether you participate in an event in-person or virtually, you can make a difference. Follow the digital conversation on MLK Day and the days leading up to it on AmeriCorps’ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn

Visit AmeriCorps.gov/MLKDay to find information, including: 

  • How to add your MLK Day volunteer opportunity to the AmeriCorps search tool 
  • How to find in-person and virtual volunteer opportunities on MLK Day 
  • Tools, resources, and informational webinars for participating and planning MLK Day service projects in your community. 

Monday, Jan. 17 is your chance to let Dr. King’s words and actions inspire you to make a difference. Please join me and your fellow neighbors to honor Dr. King’s extraordinary legacy by acting with urgency to get involved, give back and continue creating the Beloved Community. 

Michael D. Smith is CEO of AmeriCorps.

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