“Make Martin Luther King Day a day on, not a day off!” urge organizers this year. The effort has strong leadership from the top. In a press release, Michelle Obama explains:
Dr. King taught us to live a life of service, and he led by example. He once said:
“If you want to be important — wonderful. If you want to be recognized — wonderful. If you want to be great — wonderful. But, recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness.”
Saying that the Obama family will be volunteering in Washington, the soon-to-be First Lady directs would-be volunteers to the USA Service site for more information. Click on “Find an event” at the top of the page and enter your zip code to find events near you.
More than a hundred events are listed near the Twin Cities, ranging from Marian Care Center’s “Get Active With Seniors” volunteer opportunity to several Goodwill in-store volunteer activities to a jointly-sponsored United Auto Workers-Neighborhood House Blood Drive/Food Drive. Click here and enter your zip code to find volunteer opportunities near you.
Two Twin Cities volunteer opportunities highlight the breadth of possibilities. Second Harvest Heartland, the Upper Midwest’s largest hunger-relief organization, offers easy-to-understand services. The Digital Divide Initiative helps alleviate another kind of hunger, the hunger for connection and information, and it also offers volunteer opportunities on Martin Luther King Day.
Ten Thousand Strong with Second Harvest Heartland
Second Harvest Heartland has launched a virtual battle against hunger called 10,000 Strong. The number —10,000 — was chosen because of its local significance. “From the land of ten thousand lakes,” said Jon Guy, vice president of advancement for Second Harvest Heartland, “Minnesota is shouting out to Michelle Obama and President-elect Obama, ‘Yes we can!’”
Guy said this volunteer initiative holds a special value because of its connection with the beginning of Barack Obama’s presidency. “The connection between the inauguration of the first African-American will never happen again … the parity between, ‘I have a dream,’ and, ‘Yes, we can!’ is connected — which is pretty powerful.”
Second Harvest Heartland urges people to log on to the 10,000 Strong Web site and find a way to contribute.
“The promise is that they can either do something within 30 seconds or they could spend an hour, and within that time span they can do something meaningful,” he said.
Bridging the Digital Divide
The University of Minnesota Office for Business and Community Affairs Digital Divide Initiative will open its doors for a special project honoring Dr. King as well. Located in the University Office Plaza at 2221 University Avenue SE, Suite 120, the Digital Divide offices will be open from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.
DDI has given away about 400 computers to low-income families with children over the past year. These families can come back in to have computers upgraded by volunteers between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on January 19. New volunteers can participate in activities ranging from cleaning keyboards and mice to helping serve a potluck birthday lunch from 11 to 1 to making posters. Techies who have already participated in DDI programs will be on hand to guide new volunteers.
Lyssa Beyer is an aspiring journalist. This article also includes reporting by Mary Turck.