Arts & Culture

Ways to Pitch in on MLK Day 2024

Service opportunities to celebrate the life of one of the nation’s greatest leaders

Kids and parents crowd around a table with books

Photo: Book Harvest

Book Harvest's Dream Big MLK Day Book Drive Celebration in Durham, North Carolina.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the only federal holiday designated as a day of service—a “day on, not a day off.” Below are a few great ways to get involved around the South, be it through litter pickup, donating to a food drive, giving blood, or attending a discussion.


Check out United Way of Central Alabama’s list of outdoor volunteer opportunities that include community cleanups, gardening, and invasive species removal. Or, head to Bankhead National Forest on Monday to help Wild Alabama keep the forest clean and healthy. In Birmingham, you can help out at a food bank, volunteer at Meals on Wheels, or visit the Civil Rights Institute; find these and more ways to give back here.


Arkansas Soul compiled a list of MLK Day events, which includes a variety of opportunities to pitch in around the state. Attend litter cleanups hosted by Keep Little Rock Beautiful and the Central Arkansas Master Naturalists, or volunteer at KLEK, Jonesboro’s first and only black-owned radio station. Engage Arkansas is supporting Little Free Pantry as their MLK Day initiative; check out this map to find one near you.


Miami’s MLK Day Parade—one of the country’s oldest and largest MLK Day events—will begin at 11 a.m. on Monday and follow eight miles that Dr. King traveled during his frequent engagements in the city. Register for the Greater Miami Service Corps’ Saturday service project involving painting, mulching, litter pickup, and planting, or volunteer at Feeding Northeast Florida’s warehouse to help sort and distribute goods to those in need.


photo: Karl L. Moore/Mooreshots LLC
At Hands on Atlanta, volunteers pack food boxes for their community.

The volunteer organization Hands on Atlanta will be hosting a series of events in MLK’s hometown on Monday and all month long, both in person or virtually. You can garden, repair wheelchairs, pack wellness bags, and remove invasive species from local parks. View the full list of activities here. The King Center, in partnership with other local nonprofits, is collecting items for the homeless and unsheltered as part of their Beloved Community Service Project; you can donate in person or purchase items off their Amazon wish list here.


The University of Louisville is hosting an MLK Day of Service including an educational program and transportation to on- and off-campus service sites. In Lexington, you can participate in a variety of virtual and in-person events such as a donation drive, fleece-blanket-making workshop, and making cards for veterans, and the University of Kentucky will celebrate their fifty-first MLK Day celebration.


New Orleans City Park is hosting a park-wide event where volunteers can clean, paint, weed, plant, and more. On the Saturday before MLK Day, the nonprofit PlayBuild, which transforms vacant lots into kids’ play spaces, is hosting a community cleanup of the blocks surrounding their Thalia Street space; sign up here. Check out LSU’s list of community events in Baton Rouge.

North Carolina

In Durham, Book Harvest will present the thirteenth annual Dream Big MLK Day Book Drive Celebration on Monday afternoon. You can drop off books you’d like to donate, and Book Harvest will provide them to children in need. Or visit Raleigh’s Activate Good page for more MLK Day opportunities, including meal service delivery, community cleanups, and school beautification. The Volunteer Center in Greensboro is hosting a variety of service projects for their MLK Week of Service; see more information here.

South Carolina 

Celebrate and serve on MLK Day at the Columbia Museum of Art, the University of South Carolina, or the South Carolina State House; more information on those events here. In the Lowcountry, the YWCA Greater Charleston will hold an ecumenical service on Sunday as well as a parade on Monday, and encourages people to make an appointment to donate blood. Fort Mill residents can participate in an MLK Call to Service Day by dropping off donations at the Town Hall.


Volunteer Memphis has gathered a list of virtual and in-person volunteer opportunities, including gardening and flower planting, webinars, and city cleanups. In celebration of MLK’s birthday, the National Civil Rights Museum will host “King Day,” an all-day celebration with free admission to the museum and a variety of family activities. They encourage guests to bring nonperishables for the Mid-South Food Bank and to participate in the Vitilant blood drive.


For their Celebration Week, the Dallas MLK Center is hosting a variety of events and volunteer opportunities, such as produce distribution workshops and a parade. Join the YMCA of Greater Houston for a day of service that includes volunteering at a variety of food distribution sites around the city. In Austin, a parade and festival honoring MLK also includes a food drive benefiting the Central Texas Food Bank.