13 Ways Your Family Can Celebrate MLK Jr. Day In 2021

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It’s been a long couple of weeks, and if having another day off from school is stressing you out, we hear you. But this is no ordinary day—it’s a time to remember and appreciate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s contributions to our country, and it resonates particularly more during this trying time. While your kids may be jockeying to watch their favorite movies or play video games all day, why not look for ways at home to observe this important holiday? Your family can give back in the spirit of Dr. King with a “Day of Service” activity, take part in an MLK Jr. donation drive, or honor his legacy at a celebration, or do a little bit of all three. Make use of your kids’ day off by making Monday a day on—and teach your kids the valuable lessons of kindness and service at the same time. 

Psst! We love seeing your social-distancing New Jersey adventures. Be sure to tag your photos with #NJMOM and @njmom for a chance to be featured in our round-up next week.

Here are 13 ways to commemorate MLK Day in NJ

Give back with a day of service 

Stockton University’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service
January 30, 9:30AM
This year, only current Stockton University students and staff can do in-person volunteering—but you can still get involved virtually. Look into their nine virtual projects to see what your family wants to help out with. If your kiddos are artsy, create a service-oriented sketchbook for the Brooklyn Art Library; if they like writing, have them type up a thank-you letter to the healthcare workers at AtlantiCare Mainland Hospital. Once you find your project, sign up with the Volunteer Registration Form. And don’t wait—the tasks are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

City of Summit’s Shaping Summit Together: The Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Justice, Equality and Service to Others
January 18, 9AM-8PM
The City of Summit’s been holding donation and volunteering events since the beginning of January and will continue through February 8, so you can participate at your leisure. For MLK day, start the Day of Service off by donating food, diapers, and baby wipes, while your kiddos create Valentine’s Day cards for essential workers. Pop onto Zoom for performances of community stories, then help your littles decorate paper bags and paper feathers, make cards for homebound seniors with your kids, and help your teens pack lunches for the homeless. And at 7PM, tune into a live stream evening service (here or here). Various locations and virtual

Scotch Plains/Fanwood’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service
January 18, 10AM-5PM
Join them at 10AM for their virtual opening program with a choir performance, reflections on Dr. King’s life and legacy, and more. After that, there’ll be an MLK Jr. storytime and craft activity for your kiddos. While that’s happening, take a look at the list of service projects. You can also collect items to donate—The Boys & Girls Clubs of Union County are asking for kids’ hats and gloves, the Community Food Bank of NJ needs non-perishable food items, and the Fanwood-Scotch Plains YMCA is collecting socks for the homeless.

Whitesbog’s MLK Jr. Day of Service
January 18, 10:30AM-1:30PM
If you’re done with screens and looking to get outside, bundle up the fam for this on-site, in-person service day outdoors with socially-distanced activities and mask requirements. Projects include picking up trash and branches on the trails and moving boxes, decorations, and museum items to new locations. For something more creative (and less physical), your family can make thank you cards for community members.
120 W. Whitesbog Road
#34 Browns Mills, NJ 08015

Jersey Cares’ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service
January 18, various times
Your whole family can help here—in fact, the three virtual options are great for littles. Help make cards and activity packets for seniors, teachers, and first responders, or create COVID-19 signs for local schools. Later, go for a walk to show your support for Dr. King’s legacy and other social justice causes. Your older kids (at least 12 years old with an adult, 16 years old without) can also help clean up Essex County’s Branch Brook Park—they’ll be pruning, planting, and managing parts of the trail. 

West Windsor Arts Council’s MLK Jr. Day Virtual Panel Discussion and a Day of Service
January 18, 10AM-3PM
This day of service has a few projects for your family to choose from. You can put together at home bedtime kits for RISE Community Services; toiletry kits for the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen;  or PPE kits for the Jennye Stubblefield Senior Center. Make sure to sign up for the projects you want to do (using the ‘project’ link above)—and pre-register for a drop-off time. Lastly, Send Hunger Packing WW-P needs help filling its food donation bags. And at 2PM, join the Virtual Panel Discussion for a conversation about how students are promoting “service, leadership and unity” in honor of MLK Jr.

Take part in a donation drive

Berkeley Heights YMCA’s MLK Jr. Day Art Supplies For Lyons Va Hospital Collection Drive
January 18, 5AM-10PM
Drop off items between January 17-23
The donation drive name says it all. Art can help people during difficult times, so why not spread some of that joy and creativity to patients at the Lyons Veteran’s Affairs Hospital? The Berkeley Heights YMCA is asking for art-centric items like adult coloring books, colored pencils, and puzzles (see the link above for the full list).
59 Locust Avenue
Berkeley Heights, NJ 07902

Volunteer Center of Burlington County’s MLK Jr. Day Challenge 
January 18, 10AM-3PM
This drive brings together several organizations: Collect food for the Oaks Integrated Food Pantry in Mount Holly; animal supplies for the Burlington County Animal Shelter; or everything from food to toiletries to puzzle books for Operation Yellow Ribbon of South Jersey (which helps those in the military). Your family can also make greeting cards for seniors in assisted living homes.
5 Pioneer Boulevard
Westampton, NJ 08060

Join in a moving MLK Jr. Day virtual celebration

Ocean City’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ceremony
January 18
Join Ocean City as they honor MLK Jr.’s impact on our country with speeches, songs, and dances. After that, they’ll recognize an Ocean City resident with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Services Award, which is awarded to someone who represents Dr. King’s ideas around social justice and who’s volunteered a lot to help their community. Keep checking the link for updates on how to watch the ceremony.

Rowan University’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Celebration and Day of Service
January 18, 9AM
Start the day with a virtual MLK Jr. Day celebration and then partake in the conversations and workshops about understanding why you want to serve, identifying stress, and creating a better world through service. There’s also an opportunity to donate items or money to Rowan’s The SHOP, which helps local students in need.
Cost: $25 per person (all proceeds support a scholarship for high-achieving students). 

The Newark Museum of Art’s Community Day: MLK Jr. Day Celebration—Breaking Down Barriers
January 18, 10AM-5PM
The museum has a jam-packed schedule of virtual programming to celebrate Dr. King. To kick off the day, watch a musical performance about the fight for equality. The day’s events then include an artist-led workshop; an activity about decorating sneakers into something powerful; a poetry performance; a presentation of Dr. King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech; a dive into African-American history through music; and a discussion about what the Ruby Bridges-Kamala Harris image means (from the artist herself). And lastly, test your knowledge with an MLK Jr. themed trivia game.

State of New Jersey Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Commission’s MLK Jr. Virtual Youth Conference
January 18, 9AM-2PM
If you have a teen in 8th grade or high school, this event’s for them. The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Commission is hosting “Youth, We Hear You!” This virtual conference includes Dr. King-focused sessions that celebrate his impact on the world and panels, workshops, networking events and so that older kids can discover what their talents are and how they can use them. Have your teen sign up here—although if they’re under 16 years old, you’ll need to register them for the event.

Arts Council of Princeton’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day: A Princeton Celebration
January 18
Princeton has three ways to celebrate MLK Jr.—two of which are great teaching moments for littles. First stop: the Arts Council of Princeton to pick up a free, limited-edition coloring book (max two per family), which explores the impact of African-American Princetonians. At 11AM, head over to jaZams (virtually) for a 45-minute virtual storytime with kid-friendly books about “social justice, civil rights, and equality for all people.” Lastly, drive by the Arts Council’s Paul Robeson Center for the Arts, and look up to the roof—the council borrowed this powerful art installation from artist Rirkrit Tiravanija.
Various locations in Princeton and virtual

 


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About Author

Caroline is a writer from central Jersey who loves checking out new boardwalks and beach towns (current faves include Long Branch and Ocean Grove), admiring the foliage and walking around downtown Princeton, and singing along to music—often with her younger sister. One of her favorite jobs was being a camp counselor and helping out at local, family-friendly events. She can regularly be found ordering a pie to go from Romeo's in Plainsboro, her favorite pizzeria.

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