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Celebrate MLK’s Legacy with People Who Need You

Nearly thirty years have passed since Ronald Reagan made the third Monday in January a national holiday commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr. And since it was first officially celebrated in 1986, Americans have honored the great civil rights leader of our past by serving the country for which Dr. King worked tirelessly.

In his typical blend of wisdom and inspiration, Dr. King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’” Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day—and what a perfect day to begin a volunteering relationship with a nonprofit whose mission resonates with you. Answer MLK’s inspiring call for the services of others by resolving to help people in your community.

Today can be the first of many days you spend helping others. To begin a life of service like Martin Luther King Jr.’s, research local nonprofit and charitable organizations in your community. The nonprofit you serve can be a small, local operation or some branch of a national charity. In selecting a nonprofit to volunteer for, make sure that your choice works toward a cause you’re passionate about. The more emotionally connected you are to the mission of the organization, the more likely you will be to commit to serving them for the long term. And nonprofits love that.

If you find yourself stuck on which group to help in your community, think about activities you enjoy. For example—if you’re a voracious reader, look for opportunities in local schools that need help with after school reading programs. Or become a conversation partner to help English language learners. In addition to considering how you like to spend your time, think about talents or abilities you value highly. Athletes grateful for their running and jumping make perfect partners for people with physical disabilities.

Don’t underestimate your own influence, either. Mistakenly assuming that your work is too humble or small for others to benefit from, threatens to dissuade you from volunteer work altogether. But every bit of service you offer others helps. You don’t have to be a public figure or rousing orator like Martin Luther King, Jr. to help your community. You simply have to be willing and generous.

Charities and other nonprofit organization depend on you and your loved ones to help them meet their goals. Without your service and that of others, the charitable organizations in your community would struggle to make a difference. Volunteer for a local nonprofit to help others. Service is a wonderful tribute to MLK. More importantly, it’s a wonderful response to people in the community who need you.

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    LSA is a grantee of the Legal Services Corporation.