In 1994, congress designated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day an official day of service, honoring his legacy and life’s work. Get the family involved and make a difference in your own community by spending January 20 volunteering. To find organizations that need your help, enter your town or zip code into the search tool on mlkday.gov, or check out these great New Jersey-based events and organizations:
8:30 am-4 pm
Head to the YMCA at 10 am for an opening program and performance by an intergenerational choir. After the kickoff, head to various sites for service projects. Options include serving brunch and running bingo games at the IHM Nazareth Center, making sandwiches for the St. Joseph’s Food Pantry, crafting messages for a local hospital or decorating flower pots for patients in hospice.
Berkeley Heights YMCA, Berkeley Heights
Help prepare fleece blankets that kids can assemble themselves. All blankets will be donated to Cozies 4 Chemo, a nonprofit that provides hand-tied blankets to cancer patients throughout the US.
120 Morris Ave., Summit
Head here to help make lunches and fleece quilts for homeless families in need. Kids in grades pre-K through 2 can decorate lunch bags. Grades 3-6 will craft the quilts. Grades 7 and up will make the lunches. Sign up here.
Work alongside friends, community members and Mayor David Mayer during this day of service. First, head to Charles W. Lewis Middle School for breakfast and a presentation. Then, depart to various service sites like Blackwood Animal Hospital or Gloucester Township Senior Campus Center to volunteer. Activities include blanket making, card writing and cleaning. Registration by Jan. 17 required.
224 Sussex Ave., Newark
Give back to the community with Kinard Family Helping Hands, an organization that provides the homeless with hot meals, toiletries and new or gently used clothing. Head to the 224 Help Center shelter to distribute clothes, bring your own donations, serve food and more.
Bloomfield Middle School, Bloomfield
Get a jump-start on your MLK day service activities on Saturday, January 18 by helping make hygiene kits for families who need them most. The goal is to make 2,000 kits.
165 Hobart Ave., Summit
All ages can get creative by making greeting cards out of recycled material that will be donated to a local hospital for Valentine’s Day.
Trinity Episcopal Church
207 West Main St., Moorestown
The kids can create Birthday Bags complete with cake mix, frosting, candles, party favors and more for families in need. Stick around for games and cake at MLK’s birthday party. Don’t forget to bring donations.
Student Center Cafeteria
1 Normal Ave., Montclair
7:30 am-4:30 pm
There are tons of service projects to take on around campus. Listen to a few speakers and fuel up with breakfast before getting to work. Options include assisting residents at Canterbury Village nursing home, crafting with adults with cerebral palsy and organizing files at Covenant House. Sign up here.
Rutgers-Camden Campus Center
326 Penn St., Camden
8 am-12:30 pm
If you’re looking to dive into several volunteer programs on Monday, this college campus is hosting a slew of events for families with kids 12 and up. Volunteer with the NJ Tree Foundation, Joseph’s House of Camden, South Jersey Land & Water Trust and more. You can also bring a new or gently used book to give to the Camden County Pop-Up Library, or non-perishable food for the on-campus pantry. Register in advance here.
Various locations in Atlantic City, Galloway, Hammonton, Tuckerton Seaport and Woodbine
Volunteers can lend a hand at various programs, both indoor and outdoor. Some are on-campus, like writing social justice letters with the Stockton Honors Program or sorting books for Books Without Borders. Others are off-campus, like cleaning Hammonton Lake Park with the Hammonton Kiwanis Club and crafting with residents at Seashore Garden’s Living Center.
This volunteer center database can help you find a local spot that needs help. From soup kitchens to community gardens, find the countless ways you can contribute on the calendar.
Get the kids involved in keeping the parks they love clean. Simple tasks like picking up trash or clearing leaves and debris from storm drains can make a huge impact on the overall health of the environment. Find a participating organization near you.
Tweens and teens can apply to volunteer at a veterans home in Menlo Park (ages 14-17), Paramus (16 and up) or Vineland (call to inquire). Opportunities run the gamut from file shredding to shopping assistance to helping with daily activities.
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