JAN 17-19: MLK/Obama/Hands On Days of Service, Explained

So many people are calling for days of service… but I wondered whether anyone was actually answering the call. So I’m doing some research… so you don’t have to.

SAT JAN 17: Hands On Central Texas MLK Day of Service

First, you should know about the United Way/Hands on Central Texas MLK Day of Service, Saturday, January 17, from 9 am to 3 pm. They do this one every year, and I was able to attend a couple of years ago. Hands On works with local nonprofits to create these projects, most of which can be ticked off a list in half a day and require no previous experience. Not that these are light or made-up projects; these are very real needs in the community.

But the beauty of it is that a.) anyone can participate and b.)it only lasts a day. So think of these as a great way to bring a friend or some family and knock out some painting or planting or cleaning together for a great cause. They even give you a free breakfast, and before you take off for your project, there are a number of truly inspiring speakers and performers that will make it impossible for you to NOT get hooked on volunteering again.

MON JAN 19: Obama’s Day of Service

Okay, so this is where you might start to get confused. This is actually part of President-Elect Obama’s “Renew America Together” campaign to get people off their butts and out volunteering, not just for a day, but to make a commitment to volunteering.

But it starts with a day. He’s chosen the actual MLK Day, Jan 19 – the day before his inauguration, Jan 20 – to kick things off, and he does so – or rather, his people have done so – by starting a website, USAService.org, that allows us to connect with each other about local service opportunities in our area.

So you go to this site, type in your zip code, and – voila – lots of opportunities. A surprising number, in fact. I found 46 within 50 miles of my South Austin zip code. And it’s everything from food drives to clean-ups to making blankets for cancer patients.


If you don’t get a chance to participate in any of these volunteering opportunities, consider learning a little more about the organizations in Austin that are working hard to make this a better place to live. Even just learning more about the needs and the issues is a step in the right direction.

(But everybody’s going to be out volunteering, so… might be lonely at home.)

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