For me, MLK Day is not just a holiday to celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., it is also a reminder to us all that serving our community is the best gift that we can give to those in need. In honor of MLK Day, I challenge everyone to take some time to give back to their community — volunteering is such a rewarding experience.
Last year, I challenged my own family to do just that — volunteer their time for the MLK Day of Service. While my teenage son was hesitant to wake up early on his day off for the project, he finally agreed. In the end, he realized that volunteering is an awesome experience.
Building Stronger Communities
We volunteered at the new Habitat for Humanity ReStore facility in Maple Shade, New Jersey. Habitat for Humanity Restores are nonprofit home improvement stores and donation centers that sell new and gently used furniture, home accessories, building materials, and appliances to the public at a fraction of the cost. The proceeds are then used to help build shelters in local communities and around the world.
As volunteers, we spent our time painting, unloading furniture, and putting together some of the furniture. We also learned about the organization, what they do for the communities that they serve, and the importance of volunteers — we were told that without our help that morning, they would have been set back by about one month or more.
While we were there, the Habitat for Humanity team expressed their sincere gratitude for our efforts, and we really appreciated it (especially my son). By the end of the day, my son felt extremely proud of the work he had accomplished, and he realized that this experience was different than donating clothes or money. He developed a connection with the organization because he learned about the people he was helping; it’s an experience he will always cherish.
Inspired to Give Back
As a father, this was a very proud moment for me; it also reminded me of my first volunteer experience and how that led to my ongoing involvement.
I was bitten by the “volunteer bug” after volunteering at a food bank many years ago. It inspired me to look for other ways to give back, and I spent more than 15 years volunteering as a youth wrestling coach in my community. During that time, I developed close relationships with each of the wrestlers on my team and was able to mentor them on and off the wrestling mat. The appreciation and thanks that I received over the years was priceless.
I joined the Blue Crew, IBX’s corporate volunteer program, shortly after retiring as a head coach and was pleased to find that they have the same passion for volunteering that I do. I encourage everyone to volunteer in their community and experience the feeling that comes from knowing you helped others. Just give it a chance and I’m willing to bet you’ll be bitten by the same “volunteer bug” that I was.