MLK Day of Service Planning Toolkit January 17, 2022

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an official day of service that celebrates the Civil Rights leader’s life and legacy. Observed each year on the third Monday in January as “a day on, not a day off,” MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities. AmeriCorps has been charged with leading this effort for the past quarter century.

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Key Messages

The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on January 18, 2021, marks the 26th annual day of service to celebrate the Civil Rights leader’s life. Observed each year on the third Monday in January, the MLK Day of Service is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service – “a day on, not a day off.”

Service is a powerful tool for strengthening our communities, but it is only a start. Americans can take up the challenge to experience the power of service Dr. King shared in his “Drum Major Instinct” sermon: “Everybody can be great because everyone can serve.”

In recognition of Dr. King’s incredible legacy of service and leadership to gain equality for all Americans, Congress designated the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday as a national day of service in 1994 and charged the federal agency the Corporation for National and Community Service, now known as AmeriCorps, with leading this effort.

Coretta Scott King, Dr. King’s widow, once said, “The greatest birthday gift my husband could receive is if people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds celebrated the day by performing individual acts of kindness through service to others."

MLK Day of Service projects empower individuals, strengthen communities, bridge barriers, address social problems, and move us closer to Dr. King's vision of a "Beloved Community."

During the last quarter-century, the MLK Day of Service has grown in size and impact as more Americans embraced the idea that citizenship involves taking an active role to make our communities better. Serving on MLK Day can establish a habit of volunteering and build connections that can last a lifetime.

Dr. King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” The MLK Day of Service on Monday, January 18 is an opportunity to remember Dr. King’s life and re-commit ourselves as citizens to answer that question by volunteering to serve one another and our communities.

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