Dr. King had told the nation in his “I Have a Dream” speech that he dreamed of a day when his four little children would “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Throughout our nation, the Hudson Valley and in our own homes, people are gathering to celebrate the life and legacy that Martin Luther King Jr. left on all of us. From something as simple as teaching our kids the power of gratefulness and equality to serving others through charity work and donations. There are many ways that Hudson Valley families can remember, celebrate and carry on Dr. King’s message of peace, freedom and unity this month. Here I have rounded up 10 great ways to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with your families but no matter how you choose to celebrate above all else I hope you have a day of peace and love.
1. Serve others! One of Martin Luther King’s most powerful messages is, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”
Use this day as a stepping stone to get involved in your own communities. A quick search on volunteermatch.org and I found a half dozen volunteer opportunities in our area this MLK Day everything from homeless shelter clean ups to food pantry work and more. If your kids are too young or you just can’t get involved in a public organization, gather up some canned goods, paper products, disposable diapers and/or toiletries for your local food pantry. Many of the items that cannot be purchased with food stamps are often in high demand. You can call ahead to find out what is most needed as well.
2. Say thank you. Not only are we celebrating the life and teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. this month, we are also recognizing National Thank You Month. Take this opportunity to make and send thank you notes to distant relatives, friends, local service men or even just leaving a thank you note surprise in your mailbox for your mailman! There are a million ways that we can say thank you and encourage our kids to appreciate and give thanks on a daily basis.
3. Commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a visit to one of our beautiful local state parks for free. Throughout the year there are 9 days that the national parks services waive the entrance fees at all of the national parks across the country. MLK Day is the first day of the year that your family can visit any national park for free! Here is a list of parks in New York state: http://www.nps.gov/state/ny/index.htm
4. Participate in a community tribute service. Check with your local town to see if there are any special events or tributes in your own town. Here are a couple; Woodstock’s 25th annual tribute service and Ulster Corps celebration of Service. (Check the calendar for more added)
5. Watch the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade in Beacon, NY! Parade and songs highlighting those of the 1965 marches will be sung throughout the streets of Beacon. MLK essay contest, dinner, concert and more also that day!
6. The Mid Hudson Children’s museum is holding a preschool craft workshop on Monday 1/19 in honor of MLK. Children will use spray art techniques to explore the messages of peace and unity.
7. If the museum is too far, do a quick search online for MLK kids crafts. Art is a great way for kids to learn about the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. I found some great crafts kids can do like these adorable Dream Catchers from Rainbows Within Reach or Handprint Poem from School Daze.
8. Specifically for families with children ages 4+, the Rockland County YMCA is hosting a Help the Homeless- Family Volunteer Project on January 17-18. Volunteers will learn about homelessness, the midnight run and more. Families will put together sock bundles, tie with ribbon and attach a homemade card!
9. Take the kids to the library! Not only are many libraries offering special programs for MLK day, the shelves are filled with wonderful books about Martin Luther King, his message and more. A few of our favorites is “A Picture Book of Martin Luther King Jr.”, “My First Biography: Martin Luther King Jr.” and “Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”
10. Pledge to serve others all year round through doing good and being kind to one another. Take the MLK Day challange! www.nationalservice.gov/pledge-to-serve