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Making A Difference: The World of Giving - Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: A Day of Service and the President's Inauguration

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As most of us know, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a nonviolent, civil rights activist prominently known for his work with the African-American civil rights movement who gave the now famous "I Have a Dream" speech. Even though he was assassinated in 1968, his life and work are remembered and honored to this day by the federal holiday known as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. When this day comes to mind, we reflect on the profound leader and innovator MLK was and still is. However, few know it is also a national day of service, declared in 1994 by Congress.

This year MLK Day will be held on Monday, January 21, which happens to be the same day as the presidential inauguration of reelected President Obama. Last year, MLK Day fell on the eve of the inauguration and President Obama requested the nation to honor this day of service by participating. A record number of service events took place around the country, making it the most participated day in the holiday's history. This year, the National Day of Service is being held on Saturday, January 19th with Chelsea Clinton as honorary chair and organizers are looking to break the previous record.

By serving this MLK Day, you will be Making A Difference (M.A.D.) in your life as well as the lives of others. Don't have time you say? Well, I'm here to say that isn't an excuse!

Here are five ideas to use if you or someone you know has an excuse for not participating. By doing any of these, you will be M.A.D.!

1) You don't have to partake just on MLK Day! Make it a point to be M.A.D. all year long! Participate, instead, in the National Day of Service on Saturday, January 19th.
2) Take the day off! I know our paid time off is precious and often saved for family and friend obligations, but why not take one day to change the life of another?
3) You'd be M.A.D. not only in your city, but the country as well!
4) Volunteering is not only good for others, but good for you as well! The Corporation for National & Community Service published a study ("The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research") showing "a strong relationship between volunteering and health: those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer."
5) You can volunteer virtually without leaving your home or office! Numerous websites and internet tools have been created to make simple tasks such as surfing the web able to benefit your favorite causes. Try websites like GoodSearch or GoodDining and Tab for A Cause to help you give back by spending time on the internet.

Bonus Tip: Offer your work as a service! Some nonprofit organizations' offices can be rather small and minimally staffed. Volunteer your graphic design ability, PR expertise or accounting knowledge to nonprofits in need. Many times you can do this without leaving your home or office as well. WomenOnCall (www.womenoncall.org) is a great way to find opportunities like this as well as VolunteerMatch (www.volunteermatch.org).

There are many ways you can participate throughout the year. You can volunteer your time at a local food bank or serve as an aid at your child's school. Try donating your skills to Habitat for Humanity for the day and help build someone's new home. Help an elderly neighbor with their yard work, taking out their trash and just spend some time visiting. Put a dollar in a Salvation Army kettle or pay for coffee for the person behind you in line. The possibilities are endless! If you're looking for more ways and places to volunteer, visit www.mlkday.gov under "Find a Project." If Martin Luther King, Jr. and the President can take time out of their days to serve others, so can you!

Now that you have the ways to participate, let's make this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day the most successful national service day yet! What will you do to be Making A Difference (M.A.D.) January 19th and 21st?