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Honoring King's Memory with a Day of Service

Area organizations seek volunteers for early celebrations, day of and anytime after

Monday, Jan. 21 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

For some, the national holiday honoring the prominent civil rights activist is a time to give back and serve the community, be it through removing graffiti or picking up litter in a local park.

For others, it’s an opportunity to educate themselves about King and his life's work. And for others, it’s a time to just kick back and enjoy the prolonged weekend.

The Volunteer Center of Bergen County will be collecting items for Homeless Veterans through January 19.

Donations of backpacks, toiletry kits (toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, soap, comb/brush, razor, shaving cream, small bag to hold items and a set of towels), sweatshirts  sizes large and extra large, and gift cards to Walmart, Shop Rite, McDonald’s, Subway,  and Pizza Hut are needed.  Donors can drop off these items at the Volunteer Center’s offices, 64 Passaic Street in Hackensack, from 9am to 4pm on weekdays, with evening hours till 7pm on Thursday; and from 9am to 12pm on Saturday.  Call 201-489-9454 for more information.  Monetary donations that will be used to obtain needed items for the homeless veterans can be made online here.

If you are looking to volunteer on Martin Luther King Day you can contact the following organizations below:

Remember that you don't have to only volunteer on MLK Day. The following organizations are always looking for volunteers as well.

  • If you like fun and games, join New Jersey Veterans Memorial Home as they put on Bingo Time in Paramus.
  • The YWCA of Bergen County is always in need of volunteers to help out with the swimming programs for mentally and physically challenged youngsters. Volunteers must be at least 12 years old and no previous experience is required. For more information, call 201-444-5600, ext. 348.
  • Daughters of Miriam/The Gallen Institute is looking for volunteers to help staff the bookmobile and food cart and bring them around to the residents. For questions or information, please contact Rhonda Brand at volunteers@daughtersofmiriamcenter.org or 973-253-5205.
  • The mission of Volunteer Services is to provide support services to the patients, residents, visitors and staff in desired areas throughout Bergen Regional Medical Center. For more information call 201-967-4615 or email apply@BergenRegional.com.
  • Special Olympics of Bergen County, based out of Dumont, is always seeking volunteers to help during athletic tournaments. For more information, contact Artie Mortensen at 201-439-2276.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, now a U.S. holiday, took 15 years to create.

Legislation was first proposed by Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan) four days after King was assassinated in 1968. The bill was stalled, but Conyers, along with Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D-New York), pushed for the holiday every legislative session until it was finally passed in 1983, following civil rights marches in Washington. 

Then-president Ronald Reagan signed it into law. Yet it was not until 2000 that every U.S. state celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day by its name. Before then, states like Utah referred to the holiday more broadly as Human Rights Day. 

Now, the Corporation for National and Community Service has declared it an official U.S. Day of Service.

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