In 1994, to honor Dr. King's legacy, Congress designated the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday as a national day of service. Taking place on the third Monday each January, it is the first and only federal holiday observed as a national day of service – a “day on, not a day off.” Aided by the federal agency the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), each year Americans give back to their communities as a way to advance the causes Dr. King devoted his life to: equality, social justice, and economic opportunity for everyone. The CNCS provides grants and resources to organizations interested in making a difference on the MLK National Day of Service.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Grant
Every year the CNCS awards grants to organizations who encourage more Americans to become involved in service on Dr. King's holiday. Recipients may implement the entire grant themselves or act as pass-through entities for other organizations. Priority is given to programs with major activities occurring within one week of the day itself as well as those that:
- Reflect on the life and teaching of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Focus on economically disadvantaged people
Last year, six organizations received grants to help volunteers serve on the MLK holiday and beyond:
- Iowa Western Community College -Campus Compact partners provided mini-grants for campuses in their area to recruit community and student volunteers to participate in projects involving healthy futures for everyone and issues that affect veterans and military families.
- Tennessee State University – Ten Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the Southeast encouraged community capacity building in the areas of disaster services, economic opportunity, and education.
- Youth Services of America – A Beloved Communities Innovation School program helped 6,500 students participate in service-learning activities, and ten K-12 schools received Beloved Communities Innovation School grants.
- Service for Peace – Sub-grantees implemented a MLK Day of Service, 40 Days of Peace, the Backpack Angel, and the Christmas Angel program. Activities included food drives and school supply distribution.
- Points of Light Foundation – Over a two year period, 50 thousand volunteers in ten states will assist with educational achievement for economically disadvantaged students.
- The Arc of the United States – Volunteers helped provide food to communities that have experienced increases in unemployment and child poverty.
Applying for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Grant
Eligible applicants are Native American tribes, academic institutions, state and local governments, and nonprofit organizations. Apply by February 22, 2017. An optional technical assistance call will be held on February 6, 2017. (The number is still TBA at this time.) It should be noted that the Day of Service grant competition includes funding for both the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service and the September 11th Day of Service and Remembrance. Applicants may apply for either grant or both, but may not submit more than one application for each day of service.
The CNCS offers an abundance of resources to help organizations who want to observe this holiday. The MLK Day of Service website has links to free lesson plans for grades 3-12. It also features a locator to match organizations who want to promote their event with volunteers looking for a place near them to serve. Scroll down to the bottom of the toolkit to find press releases and social media messages you can use to spread the word, along with videos and other promotional material. If you have not planned an event for MLK Day 2017, it is a great site to bookmark to help get you started next year. If you would like to follow today's activities, search #MLKDay on Twitter or go to the MLK Day of Service Facebook page.
Grants for Literacy
Reading and literacy projects are often part of MLK Day of Service activities. Below is a link to a free list of 10 literacy-related grants:
“Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.