Iris Dooling is serving as the Eli Segal Fellow at the Corporation for National and Community Service. She formerly worked with Habitat for Humanity International as a Program Specialist for their AmeriCorps program in post-Katrina Louisiana. Today she is going to share with us her MLK Day of Service story.
If you are like me, you made New Year’s resolutions this year that were fairly similar to the ones you made last year. Each year in late December, I resolve to “turn over a new leaf” and make better use of my spare time. Some of the items that reappear most frequently on my list are: volunteer more, learn more about my community, connect with my neighbors, and do something that benefits others. Although these resolutions seem simple enough, I often need a little push to translate them into reality. Instead of taking the initiative, I make excuses that “I don’t have enough time; I don’t know where to volunteer; I don’t know what opportunities are out there.”
Fortunately for me, and those with similar good intentions, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service provides that little push I need to translate these resolutions into reality in 2010. In fact, volunteering on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service is so easy that there really is no excuse not to do it. Not only do we have the day off from work, but there is a convenient list of projects and locations at serve.gov/MLKDay. All I have to do is sign up, which is really easy.
The last time I volunteered for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, I was living in New Orleans and I really enjoyed my service. I was able to volunteer with my colleagues and other community members on a great project. Our group was composed of about 100 AmeriCorps members, middle school students, and faith-based community partners. We all met together at the beginning of the day for a presentation about Dr. King’s life and mission and how it connected to the service that we were about to do. We then split into 3 groups based on our interests and skills. One group painted a mural at a local school, another group learned about green building from a local non-profit, and my group headed to the kitchen to prepare a huge spaghetti dinner for New Orleans’ many homeless people. That day, I was able to connect with many inspirational people that I wouldn’t have otherwise met. I was able to learn more about my community, my neighbors, and help out people in need. As my team and I worked together in the kitchen, we shared stories, laughs, and really bonded while we prepared a hot meal for those in need. That day of service really provided an opportunity for me to translate my good intentions into reality.
During his life, Martin Luther King, Jr. said that “everybody can be great because everybody can serve.” Each person has something, no matter how small, that she can do to help others, but sometimes you just need a little push, a little extra incentive, to get started. This year, take advantage of the opportunity that Martin Luther King, Jr. provides. Go to serve.gov/MLKDay and check out the opportunities to serve. Make Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a day ON, not just a day off from work and get started on those resolutions while you are at it!
You can share your MLK Day story of service by visiting serve.gov/share.