Americans Mark MLK Day by Tackling Community Problems through Service

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‘MLK 25 Challenge’ Asks Americans to Commit 25 Acts of Service Throughout the Year

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Today, hundreds of thousands of Americans across the country will mark the 25th Anniversary of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday by joining with their neighbors to address pressing social and economic problems in their communities.

More than 40 years after his death, America still confronts many of the same challenges Dr. King faced during his lifetime – poverty, hunger, illiteracy, youth violence, and a dropout crisis.
Organizations across the country are using the MLK Day of Service to engage volunteers in addressing these challenges, both on the holiday and throughout the year.

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, cabinet secretaries, elected officials, nonprofit and business leaders, and Americans of all ages and backgrounds will roll up their sleeves to serve on the 2011 Martin Luther King, Jr. National Day of Service. Whether delivering meals, refurbishing schools and community centers, collecting food and clothing, reading to children, or providing employment counseling, Americans will provide solutions to community problems.

“By dedicating this day to service, we move our nation closer to Dr. King's vision of all Americans living and working together as one beloved community,” President Obama stated in a proclamation regarding Martin Luther King, Jr., Federal Holiday.

In 1994, Congress passed legislation transforming the King Holiday into a national day of service – a “day on, not a day off” - and charged the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) with leading this national effort. The day has grown from a handful of projects 16 years ago to more than 13,000 this year.

“Dr. King devoted his life to the work of building a more perfect union. As Americans, that is a job for all of us – not just on MLK Day but throughout the year,” said Patrick A. Corvington, CEO of CNCS. “By joining together in service, we can have a real and lasting impact on the toughest problems facing our communities and our nation.”

MLK Day Ambassadors will mark the King Holiday by volunteering in local service projects, while others will post Twitter and Facebook messages leading up to the day of service. Among the Ambassadors are famed civil rights leaders, governors, service leaders, and celebrities, such as Monique Coleman, Hill Harper, and Tatyana Ali.

To mark the 25th anniversary of the King federal holiday, and to encourage service throughout the year, CNCS has launched the MLK 25 Challenge: What Are You Doing For Others? The initiative calls on Americans to commit to take at least 25 actions during 2011 to make a difference for others and honor Dr. King’s legacy.

Civil rights luminaries including Congressman John Lewis, Reverend Dr. Joseph Lowery, and Ruby Bridges are featured in a new King Legacy of Service 25th Anniversary video produced by CNCS that tells the story of how Dr. King's birthday has evolved into a national day of service. The agency also launched the Drum Major for Service Award with the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships to recognize more than 600 everyday service heroes that are making a difference in their communities.

Across the country, Americans will make today “a day on, not a day off” by participating in service projects that address a multitude of pressing social issues from hunger to homelessness and environmental challenges. Below are some of the projects taking place across the country. Thousands more can be found at

Healthy Futures for All

  •     In Atlanta, over 2,000 volunteers will be on hand to package and distribute 10,000 boxes of food to the hungry.
  •     825 volunteers in Waco, TX with the Campus Kitchen Project will serve at 15 community service art projects at school garden sites and provide meals with nutrition pamphlets. They will return in April for a Harvest Celebration to enjoy the garden’s produce.

Providing Economic Opportunity

  •     Lawyers in Alaska will offer free legal advice on Medicaid/Medicare, Divorce, Eviction, Rental Properties, Social Security, and Child Custody matters.
  •     A health-care career fair will be held in Ann Arbor, MI, for young people considering careers in the growing field.

Educating America's Children

  •     Tomorrow's Aeronautical Museum's hangar at the Compton Airport will be transformed into an interactive STEM learning center, allowing students to apply math and science principles to actual projects, including building a real aircraft.
  •     In Connecticut, a college and education fair will provide services including resume review, college application and essay assistance, and financial aid training.

Supporting Veterans and Military Families

  •     West Virginia residents will host an informational session to help veterans who are applying for benefits with Veterans Affairs and the VA Medical Center.
  •     Volunteers in Gulfport will be repairing the house of a 70 year old veteran, whose house was damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service:
In 1994, Congress passed legislation encouraging Americans to observe the King Holiday as a national day of service that brings people together from different backgrounds to meet needs in their community.
The Corporation for National and Community Service was designated as the lead federal agency to execute the King Day of Service. Participation has grown every year since its inception. The King Day of Service provides American the opportunity to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King through service to meet local and national needs. For more information visit

About the Corporation for National and Community Service:
The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through its Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America programs, and leads President Obama's national call to service initiative, United We Serve. For more information, visit


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Ashley Etienne
The Corporation for National and Community Service
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