Westerly Sun Column | Be of Service to Others on MLK Jr. Day

January 09, 2023

We all (should) know that the third Monday in January is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, when we celebrate the life of the prolific activist who was killed on April 4, 1968, at the age of 39. Did you know, though, that this is the only federal holiday that is also a designated Day of Service? Many employers offer the day as a paid holiday to their employees, but we are all encouraged to view it as “a day on, not a day off”. In recognition of Dr. King, who dedicated his life to the service others, let’s do our best to use this day to making a positive impact in our communities. This is what the Martin Luther King Day of Service is all about.

There are many ways to participate in MLK Day of Service. If your employer offers you a day off, spend the day volunteering: visit www.americorps.gov or www.idealist.org to find volunteer opportunities near you, or contact local non-profits to inquire. Many people participate in community cleanups, picking up trash or otherwise revamping public areas. If you have kids, consider getting them involved by walking around the block and gathering trash, or doing so at a local park – it’s never too early to get them in on the action!

Understandably, there are many reasons why someone would not be able to dedicate the day to volunteering. If this is the case for you, consider making a donation to benefit those in need. In honor of Dr. King, Westerly Library & Wilcox Park will be collecting non-perishable food items from January 9th to the 14th, which will be donated to the Johnnycake Center. We’ll have a collection bin on the library’s first floor all week long, where you can drop off items like pasta sauces, diced tomatoes, coffees, teas, crackers, and condiments. Any nonperishable is appreciated, but those items are particularly helpful. Other ways to get involved: go through your clothes and coats, and donate gently used items to a non-profit, donate books to your local library or fill up a little library in your area, or (if you’re able), give a monetary donation to an organization that means a lot to you.

Another way to honor Dr. King’s legacy is to learn more about his life, and his lifelong fight for justice, equality, and dignity, and love. The library has a large collection on books and movies for all ages about Dr. King, the civil war, and equal rights movement. We encourage you attend the annual reading of his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, which will be held in our auditorium at 5:30pm on January 10th, and is made possible by the Westerly Area Peace and Justice Group and Westerly Arc (Anti-Racism Coalition). Let’s all work on continuing Dr. King’s mission, today, tomorrow, and throughout the entire year.

By Cassie Skobrak, Adult Services Librarian

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