Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service: Tips and Ideas for a Successful Service Project

“Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Inspire your Club members to transform Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s teachings into community action. Join us on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as we celebrate one man’s dream to make the world a better place. This is a great time to engage in youth-led service projects that bring awareness to important issues affecting our communities around the world.

What is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service?

On the third Monday in January, we honor the legacy of Dr. King, a heroic civil rights leader. MLK Day of Service is an opportunity to volunteer and serve our communities – to make a difference and be the positive change needed in today’s world.

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Artist Derek Russell

Why is Service Important?

Clubs are uniquely positioned to provide opportunities for youth to serve and contribute to their communities in meaningful ways. Volunteering gives kids of all ages and backgrounds an exceptional way to build character and strengthen leadership skills. Service helps youth develop compassion as they learn the value in giving and the importance of kindness.

Did you know that 84% of Club members believe they can make a difference in their communities, and 92% want to help when they see someone in need? Also, kids involved in civic engagement programs attend school more frequently and are more likely to graduate than their peers who don’t participate. Service opportunities within your Club offer hands-on experiences that demonstrate the power young people have to build a better world.

Tips For Running a Successful Service Project at Your Club

“The time is always right to do what is right.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Use a 3-step formula that supports youth to use what they are passionate about to create a project that solves a community problem. In a 45-60-minute session, or during your regularly scheduled Keystone or Torch Club meetings, engage youth in a discussion to support them in designing and implementing your MLK Project. Club staff can use tools from the Teens Take the Lead Service-Learning Guide to guide your process.

service project

STEP 1: Explore Passions. Facilitate a conversation to help youth discover interests, strengths and what matters most to them. Passion is the basis of all leadership development and helps them stay engaged when challenges emerge.

STEP 2: Identify a Problem or Community Need. Facilitate a conversation to help youth explore what your community needs. Remember to highlight positive qualities that make your community resilient. Consider community needs that no one is addressing.

STEP 3: Design Your Project: Ask if there are youth who would like to co-lead the project with your guidance. This ensures that youth voice is at the forefront of the process.  Consider partnering youth who have different skills, interests and experiences in leadership to facilitate learning.

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Service Project Ideas

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Below are some sample service event ideas using the 3-step method that you can do with members at your Club! These are just suggestions, feel free to get creative:

  • Passion = Education
  • Problem = Access to resources
  • Project = Build a “Little Free Library” for your Club.
    • A Little Free Library is a free book exchange that everyone can use. Members can work together to build and decorate a Library box to display inside or outside of the Club, then fill it with books to share with each other and the community. If you see a book in the Library you would like to read, take it. When you’re finished, share it with a friend or bring it back to the Library. You can even register your Library online and add it to the world map of Little Free Libraries! You can also lead members through discussions on the importance of literacy, education, and equal access to resources in communities.
  • Passion = Environment
  • Problem = No green spaces in community; litter
  • Project = Plant trees and host a community clean up
    • This fun, hands-on activity is a great way to help the environment and beautify your community. Raise money to buy the plants and equipment, or ask a local garden store to donate the supplies. After planting and cleaning, lead a discussion on how small acts like this can impact the larger community.
  • Passion = Equity
  • Problem = Homelessness, poverty
  • Project = Host a food or supply drive
    • Work with your members to advertise and host a food or supply drive for a local community organization. Did you know that hygiene products are the most requested supplies at shelters? Other highly requested goods are non-perishable foods, school supplies, and winter coats. Once the drive is complete, allow members to go with you to donate the supplies to the shelter or organization so they can see their impact first hand. If possible, see if they can tour the facility, talk to the community members, and discuss other ways to get involved.
  • Passion = Mental Health
  • Problem = Lack of empathy and compassion
  • Project = Decorate and display Kindness Stones
    • Have members paint stones or bricks with notes of gratitude, affirmation, encouragement, kindness, or hope. As a group, place the stones in different areas around the community to bring happiness to others. Stumbling upon one of these Kindness Stones can change someone’s whole day!

Share Your Service Projects With Us!

In the coming weeks, we encourage you and your Club members to celebrate MLK Day of Service by giving back to your community. Service projects can be performed through the end of January, and we want to see what you do! You can email your story to or share with your colleagues in the BGCA Youth Development Community on Facebook.

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How is your Club participating in MLK Day of Service? Share your stories and pictures with us by commenting below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or emailing for a chance to be featured in upcoming posts!

This post comes from the Youth Trends team at BGCA, and is written by Rachel Greene-Wilbur. For other posts on the latest in pop culture and how current events affect our members, check the Youth Trends tag!

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