“Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

We all know that Dr. Martin Luther King was one of the most influential leaders of the Civil Rights movement. But did you know that he was also passionate about volunteering and giving back to the community? He encouraged community leaders to work together to create a better world. This past Saturday marked the 4th Annual National Day of Service, which pays homage to Dr. King. Because of this, I’m feeling inspired to talk about “community service” and “volunteering” in honor of Dr. King.

The term “volunteer” originated in 1755 as “one who offers himself for military service,” from M. Fr. Voluntaire. About eighty years later, in the 1830’s, it was first recorded in the non-military sense. During America’s Great Awakening, people became aware of the plight of the disadvantaged and began helping those in need in their community. This is the time the YMCA, the YWCA, and the Salvation Army were established. Also during this time, women were organizing volunteer efforts to support soldiers fighting in the Civil War. On both sides of the Mason-Dixon, they served as volunteer nurses, baked and canned food, and sewed and laundered clothing for the soldiers.

The Great Depression created an opportunity for one of the first large-scale, nationwide efforts to coordinate volunteer efforts for a specific need. This included running employment bureaus, wood yards, soup kitchens, and “Penny Pantries” where every item cost one cent. During World War II, in addition to these efforts, supplies collections for the military, entertaining the soldiers on leave, and caring for those injured in battle also topped the list of volunteer roles American men and women were fulfilling. Post World War II, passion shifted abroad and people began directing their attention overseas; not surprisingly, thus creating the US Peace Corps.

I take such great pride and pleasure in working with those who reach out to me to help their organizations. I’m always excited to dive into a new project. The work that goes into each project is truly a labor of love for me. I applaud anyone who takes the time to give back in an effort to build a stronger community. Not only does it say so much about the content of their character but it sets a wonderful, important example for the younger generation.

How do you give back to your community? Have you done or will do you do anything special in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Let’s share and inspire each other!