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.
Donations of backpacks, toiletry kits (toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, soap, comb/brush, razor, shaving cream, small bag to hold items and a set of towels), sweatshirts sizes large and extra large, and gift cards to Walmart, Shop Rite, McDonald’s, Subway, and Pizza Hut are needed. Donors can drop off these items at the Volunteer Center’s offices, 64 Passaic Street in Hackensack, from 9am to 4pm on weekdays, with evening hours till 7pm on Thursday; and from 9am to 12pm on Saturday. Call 201-489-9454 for more information. Monetary donations that will be used to obtain needed items for the homeless veterans can be made online here.
If you are looking to volunteer on Martin Luther King Day you can contact the following organizations below:
- Game Time with Veterans in Paramus - Volunteers are needed to play a fun variety of board games with the New Jersey Veterans Memorial Home residents while spending time together.
- Serving Our Veterans In Bloomfield - Volunteers are needed to revitalize a local VFW by giving the organization a fresh coat of paint and help with general landscaping.
- Painting the Town Purple in Newark - The Big Brothers Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson and Union Counties need volunteers to help revitalize a the center and paint the agency's office bright and welcoming colors so that the volunteers and children who meet there will be greeted not just with smiles, but with a fresh coat of paint.
- Inspirational Painting in Passaic - The Passaic County Women's Center Shelter needs volunteers to help give a shelter a fresh coat of paint in the dinning area and hallways.
- Disaster Recovery: Ortley Beach - Join the Sandy-Weekday Warriors and help those affected by Hurricane Sandy by clearing out furniture and cabinets and tearing up wood floors and sheetrock. Volunteers should dress as warm as possible(coat, hat and gloves), as this project is happening in January. Also, please bring a snack and lunch.
- Disaster Recovery: Clean Up in Manahawkin - The Disaster Recovery Volunteer Reception Center of Ocean County and volunteers will support AmeriCorps Members clean out homes. Volunteers may be asked to assist with Community Clean Up, Debris Removal (Muck-Outs), General labor tasks or General Operations. Please bring your own personal protection equipment. Goggles, masks, boots etc. You will also need to provide your own source of food and water while volunteering.
- Disaster Relief: Distribution in Toms River - Volunteers are needed to help organize a hurricane relief distribution center located at the Church of Grace and Peace in Toms River. Donations of food, clothing, hygiene and household supplies need to be unloaded, sorted and stacked. Upon arrival, please report to the administrative office to sign in and receive your assignment. On site volunteer coordinators wear green vests.
Remember that you don't have to only volunteer on MLK Day. The following organizations are always looking for volunteers as well.
- If you like fun and games, join New Jersey Veterans Memorial Home as they put on Bingo Time in Paramus.
- The YWCA of Bergen County is always in need of volunteers to help out with the swimming programs for mentally and physically challenged youngsters. Volunteers must be at least 12 years old and no previous experience is required. For more information, call 201-444-5600, ext. 348.
- Daughters of Miriam/The Gallen Institute is looking for volunteers to help staff the bookmobile and food cart and bring them around to the residents. For questions or information, please contact Rhonda Brand at volunteers@daughtersof miriamcenter.org or 973-253-5205.
- The mission of Volunteer Services is to provide support services to the patients, residents, visitors and staff in desired areas throughout Bergen Regional Medical Center. For more information call 201-967-4615 or email apply@BergenRegional.com.
- Special Olympics of Bergen County, based out of Dumont, is always seeking volunteers to help during athletic tournaments. For more information, contact Artie Mortensen at 201-439-2276.
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.
Now, the Corporation for National and Community Service has declared it an official U.S. Day of Service.