Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. With a Day of Service

Make it a Day On, Not a Day Off

By Christen Reiner, publisher of Macaroni Kid Lakewood-Littleton & Macaroni Kid Denver, Colo. January 14, 2021

“Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.”
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Many of us think of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday as a day off, but we should be thinking about it as a day on.

This year's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is January 18, 2021, and marks the 26th anniversary of the Civil Rights leader’s life and legacy. Observed each year on the third Monday in January, MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service, encouraging Americans young and old to volunteer to improve their communities. 

AmeriCorps has lead this effort for the last quarter-century. The organization encourages everyone to share and celebrate their service projects and accomplishments in Dr. King's memory. 

You may think that your kids are too young to honor Martin Luther King Jr. No way! Anyone can volunteer, and any kind of service honors Dr. King's life and legacy. You can choose one of the following ideas or come up with your own. Ask your kids for suggestions, too... you may be surprised by what they come up with! Even during COVID times, there are service projects you and your family can do that help others, while also allowing you to follow COVID guidelines. Here are some ideas:

Kindergarten - 2nd Grades

  • Make cards or pictures for nursing home residents (
  • Write to an elderly neighbor or local nursing home resident
  • Hold a book drive
  • Package care bags for homeless or families in need
  • Collect old towels, stuffed animals, and blankets for an animal shelter
  • Decorate lunch bags and use for snack sacks for families in need or the homeless

3rd - 5th Grades

  • Make easy, no-sew fleece blankets for children in local hospitals (
  • Collect and sort school supplies and create kits to benefit a local shelter or library
  • Rake leaves or shovel snow for elderly or disabled neighbors
  • Plant seeds to beautify neighbors' yards
  • Collect new socks for the homeless

6th - 8th Grades

  • Volunteer at a local animal shelter
  • Give your time (safely) to a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter
  • Participate in charity walks or runs
  • Sponsor an Art Show
  • Foster a pet
  • Shoot a video for a lonely nursing home or assisted living resident and upload it to

High School

  • Make and donate masks to local family shelters
  • Start a club at your school that promotes volunteerism throughout the year
  • Initiate a park clean up or beautification project
  • Look for a nonprofit that interests you
  • Install a buddy bench at a school
  • Help with a Habitat for Humanity project

➡️ You can find additional service opportunities by zip code here. Already know what you plan to do? Register your project!

About Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. is of the most influential civil rights leaders in history, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize at age 35 in 1964. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the bill that created the federal holiday.

Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. He served for many years as a pastor, during which time he worked tirelessly for the equality of all people as a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and a leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Over the years, he joined with many other civil rights activists to lead non-violent protests across the country.

In August of 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. helped to organize the famous March on Washington. More than 250,000 people joined together to show their support of equal rights for everyone — including advocating for an end to segregation in public schools, protection from police abuse, and to create laws preventing discrimination in employment. He delivered his most famous speech, “I have a dream" during that event, which included this famous line:

“I have a dream my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. Although his life was cut short, the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. continues.

Christen Reiner is the publisher of Macaroni Kid Lakewood-Littleton and Macaroni Kid Denver in Colorado.