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Make a Difference

Comm Service

In 1983, Martin Luther King Day (MLK Day) was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. It was first observed in 1986 and is now recognized throughout the union. In 1994, Congress established Martin Luther King Day as a national day of service. The service day concept is built around Dr. King’s question of “what are you doing for others?” It also supports the President’s United We Serve initiative for a national call to service.

Community service is one way to support this initiative. Community service is very popular as individuals, non-profit groups, and universities use the collective skill sets of their members to effect change in their communities. Community service supports sustainability as it builds strong social networks that are more resilient to natural or manmade disasters. Service opportunities include tutoring/mentoring, assisting elderly, environmental stewardship and disaster recovery efforts. Service projects help to improve the physical environment, encourage social connections, and build a sense of pride and commitment.

Service models have been around since 1960 with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) and a timeline of national service milestones is available here. The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is the agency charged with leading the MLK Day of Service. It exists to connect community members, build capacity, and positively impact the nation.

In Pinellas County, volunteers are often seen in our offices, parks and preserves, and schools. Without volunteers, it would not be possible to accomplish many of the tasks we currently perform. At Pinellas County Extension, we are grateful for the support of our Master Gardeners, Sustainable Floridians, Master Food and Nutrition, and 4-H volunteers and club leaders who donate countless hours of their time every year. According to the Independent Sector, the value of a volunteer hour in Florida in 2013 was $21.24. In 2014, I had the benefit of receiving $15,803 of volunteer time, the equivalent of 18.5 weeks of full time work (40 hours). The public benefits from the work of volunteers in the gardens, classrooms, parks and trails.

As we kick off another year of national service, pledge to serve not only on #MLK Day but all year long.