January 16 is Martin Luther King, Jr. day, the third Monday of 2017. MLK Jr. once asked, “What are you doing for others?” Take that idea and use your day off from work or school to turn it into a day of service for your community as part of a nationwide day of service. Montgomery County has its own Day of Service and Volunteer fair each year and you can take part!

During Montgomery County's 2016 Day of Service, more than 3,000 volunteers participated in the annual community event. The main volunteer center is at the North Bethesda Marriott Conference Center across the street from the White Flint Metro Station.

“The day is a great way to be introduced to volunteering,” says Molly Callaway, Director at Montgomery County Volunteer Center. “It's such an inspirational day; a wonderful chance to come together and do great things with such positive energy.”

Along with several satellite sites, volunteers at the Marriott Conference Center help with dozens of different organizations and community projects to bag lunches for area shelters, make care packages, write letters to servicemen and women, assemble personal care kits for area homeless and more. “There are so many ways that people help,” Callaway says. “We have projects that even younger children can participate in.”

In addition to on-site volunteering, parents and families have the chance to learn more about upcoming opportunities to help at other local community organizations. The Service Community Fair allows for non-profit organizations to present what they do to a wide audience of potential volunteers.

Callaway expects volunteer slots to fill up quickly, so she recommends signing up ahead of time by going to montgomeryserves.org and clicking on the “MLK Day of Service 2017” button. “ So many people want to help out, so spots do fill up,” she says.

The satellite centers in Silver Spring, Germantown and Gaithersburg also recommend that volunteers register for the day in advance. All four locations are holding their events at different times for two hours; starting from 9:00 a.m. in Gaithersburg, 10:00 a.m. in Silver Spring, 11:00 a.m. in Germantown and 1:00 p.m. in North Bethesda.

Can't make it to any of the Day of Service locations? That's okay, Callaway insists. “There are so many things you can do in your own small community,” she says. “Do a food collection drive in your own neighborhood, for example or collect coats for the needy. There are lots of ways you can plan your own MLK day in the spirit of service.”

If you don't live or work near Montgomery County, there are still ways to honor MLK's legacy. Click on over to serve.gov to find great chances for you and your family to make a difference in your community. Points of Light (pointsoflight.org) is another good resource for local volunteering. Reaching out to your house of worship or local schools may also provide additional opportunities to volunteer on this day of service and beyond.

“There are so many ways for people to get engaged,” Callaway says. “No matter how people pitch in, it all makes a difference.”

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Katie Schubert is Assistant Editor at Washington Parent.