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Honoring Dr. King’s legacy through service

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013 11:35 a.m. CST

Each January, we pause to remember the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Best known for his work as a civil rights activist, Dr. King dedicated his life to improving the lives of those in his community and across the nation. 

At the core of his beliefs was an unwavering dedication to helping others.  It is in the spirit of this commitment to serving that we mark each Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with a National Day of Service. 

Here in Iowa, we have a longstanding tradition of not only helping our neighbors, but also those who we have not met. In 2011, the Volunteering and Civic Life in America study found that nearly 40 percent of Iowa’s residents volunteer, making us third in the nation. 

All told, Iowans gave more than 99 million hours of their time last year serving their communities.

I’m pleased that I was able to honor this tradition by introducing the Volunteer Generation Fund as a part of the bipartisan Serve America Act, which was signed into law in 2009. This fund builds the capacity of state and local volunteer organizations to recruit, manage, and train volunteers. 

Local organizations like the United Way of Wapello County, United Way of East Central Iowa, United Way of Johnson County, and Volunteer Center of Fairfield have already benefited from help to develop and expand their volunteer operations.  

I know that as Iowans we will continue to give back and serve others, and this January 21st is a great opportunity to get out and do so. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service is a part of United We Serve, a national call to service initiative. 

On Monday the 21st, people across America will come together to celebrate Dr. King’s life and contribution to our nation by serving their communities at soup kitchens, schools, community gardens, and even in their own neighborhoods.  

I encourage you to find a way to get involved. 

You can find local service opportunities or create your own events at www.mlkday.gov.  Here you will find toolkits to help you plan your projects and get inspiration from what others are planning across the country. 

You can also register your own project and invite your friends, family and community to participate at www.serve.gov/recruit_mlkday.  

If you are unable to join in on January 21st, you can still get involved. People in our communities need us now more than ever, and any bit of time you are able to give will make a difference. 

As January is National Mentoring Month, you might consider becoming a mentor to someone in your neighborhood. Through the work of organizations like the Iowa Mentoring Partnership, mentoring promotes positive choices and high self-esteem, and shows proven educational and behavioral results.

However you choose to mark this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the National Day of Service, I hope you will pause to remember his legacy and the difference the time you donate can truly make.

Editor’s Note: Today is the 84th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth.

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