Volunteering on MLK Day and Beyond
Meaningful Opportunities Helping Neighbors in Need
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” That famous quote is repeated and practiced on the third Monday of January every year on Martin Luther King Jr day, a time to celebrate and remember an inspirational leader who believed in serving others to better our communities.
A national holiday, many parents use this day to teach their children about civic responsibility and volunteering by participating in activities like packing food, distributing clothes, and planting trees. So many like to give back on this holiday, in fact, that nonprofits have devised virtual activities in which you can provide support, or stretched the day of service to a week (or longer) to engage new supporters and help more folks in need.
Below are some opportunities to undertake on and around the 17th — many from the comfort of your own home. Please take note: though the holiday season and MLK Day heighten the awareness of volunteer needs, most nonprofits need help 365 days a year, so please consider serving with your local nonprofits throughout the year.
Broad Street Ministries practices radical hospitality by serving nutritious and professionally-prepared meals, as well as by providing people facing hardship and homelessness access to a variety of life-stabilizing services. Some of the activities listed on the website for MLK Day (and the rest of the week … and thereafter) include administrative support with guest mail and phone calls, as well as assistance with meal service. Sign up now.
All in-person shifts have been filled on MLK Day, but there are still ways you and your kiddos can help seniors, veterans, and those with disabilities from the comfort of your home. Opportunities include cooking meals or putting your arts-and-crafts skills to use and making ‘caring cards’ that accompany snack bags for people facing hunger. To make meals, visit the Caring for Friends warehouse at 12271 Townsend Road in the North East to pick up trays to fill (think old-school TV dinners), or pick them up locally, and return them, filled, to the site where you picked them up. Find a spot near you on this handy dandy locator.
MANNA provides critical nutrition to thousands of our neighbors battling serious diseases. Last year, the nonprofit delivered more than 1.5 million medically tailored meals thanks to the help of thousands of volunteers who stepped up to make sure their kitchen kept running during the pandemic. This MLK Day is a great time to commit to service by completing an application, scheduling a new volunteer orientation, and then, once approved, choosing the type and number of shifts that work for you. Note that there is no minimum commitment required but all commitments are greatly appreciated.
Due to the increase in Omicron cases, Project HOME is not accepting on-site volunteers, but has gathered some virtual opportunities so you and your family can help people experiencing homelessness, such as street clean ups, driving to pick-up and drop-off needed items, and writing notes of hope to clients.
Uhuru is a black community-led economic development project of the non-profit African People’s Education and Defense Fund (APEDF.org). Open for 28 years, and featuring high-quality, gently used furniture, 100% of Uhuru’s profits benefit APEDF, which leads programs to defend the human and civil rights of the African community and address the grave disparities the black community faces in food, education, health, and economic development. For this 25th annual MLK event, the program – featuring speakers, music, and videos — begins at 10am on Zoom, and is followed by an outdoor volunteer project taking place throughout local neighborhoods. Space is limited so you must register. Have questions or want to volunteer after MLK Day? Email or call 215-546-9616, extension 3 for opportunities for groups and individuals.
Holding in-person and virtual MLK day of service options, the Unitarian Society, whose mission is building beloved community with compassion, service and empowerment, is hosting a range of indoor, outdoor, and virtual opportunities. You can donate items to its food pantry, deliver food, join in a Zoom card-making workshop for children, or participate safely in person at an outdoor clean up in historic Rittenhouse Town. Space is limited so book your spot now.
Formerly known as the Career Wardrobe, this nonprofit provides a stable source of well-maintained and displayed clothing that is suitable for any need, from casual to workwear – and offers it for free to anyone who needs it to eliminate clothing insecurity. Those who want to help can visit their volunteer page to sign up for a volunteer training to work with clients, helping them to find the clothing that best fits their needs. You could also check out their website to see what they need, go through your closet to find some items to donate, and drop them off at their Philly or DelCo location.
Looking for more?
Because MLK Day is a popular time to volunteer, if these opportunities are booked, or you’re looking for another cause or organization to support, more options around town can be found at: Global Citizen, Volunteer Match, and Points of Light.
Perhaps a year- round philanthropy endeavor is more on your mind? Consider joining the ranks of the Junior League of Philadelphia, The Saturday Club, one of the Southeast PA chapters of the 100 Who Care Alliance (Chester County, Downingtown, Bucks County, Southern Chester County/Brandywine Valley, Montgomery County, Phoenixville, Philadelphia, and Tredyffrin/Easttown Townships), and The Women’s Auxiliary to Chester County Hospital.
Don’t miss our other content about helping out those in need:
- Volunteer to Raise Kind, Generous Kids
- Share the Spirit of Generosity With Your Children
- Teach Them to Do Good: Where Kids Can Volunteer
Photograph by Casey Kallen.