9 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference on MLK Day


If even the thought of having another day off from school is giving you a panic attack (wasn’t it just Christmas break?), we hear you. But this is no ordinary day—it’s a time to remember and appreciate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and all he has done for our country. While your kids may be jockeying to go to a water park or play video games yet again, why not look for activities that focus on giving back to your community in the spirit of Dr. King? Whether it’s packing lunches for the homeless in Summit, cleaning up a local forest in Princeton, or putting together toiletry kits for those in need in Hoboken, there are so many ways to make Monday a day on—and teach your kids the valuable lessons of kindness and service.

featured image via uwkc.org

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Here are 9 places to volunteer on MLK day:

Stockton University’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service
January 20, 8:30AM
Head to one of their 3 campuses in South Jersey to register and listen to a program about Dr. King. After, you can have your pick of any of the service projects available on-site and off (there will be shuttles taking you to off-site ones). And if your crew is unsure about what to do, there’s plenty to choose from, including making crafts for seniors, cleaning up trash in a park or sorting and packaging books for a book drive. Pre-registration is required, and to thank you for your efforts, each volunteer receives lunch and a small gift.
Various campuses in Southern New Jersey

Gloucester Township’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service 2020
January 20, 8:30AM – 12:00PM
In the morning, stop by the school to have a light breakfast and learn more about Dr. King’s mission before you head to one of 26 sites where your family can help out. Choose spending time with residents at a healthcare center, sorting clothes for the homeless or making small books that will be donated to the pediatric center at a local hospital.
Charles W. Lewis Middle School (pre-registration is required)
875 Erial Road, Blackwood, NJ 

Bridges Outreach Martin Luther King Day of Service
January 20, 10AM-11:30AM
Whether you have little ones, grade-school ages or teens, everyone can pitch in at this event, which benefits families experiencing homelessness in shelters. Littles can decorate lunch bags; older kids can make quilts for a sheltered child and you and your teen can make brown bag lunches to be distributed to shelters. Sign up to volunteer online.
Bridges Outreach
120 Morris Avenue
Summit, NJ 

We The People’s Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s Day of Service
January 20, 12:30PM – 3:30PM
Looking for a project that will keep tweens and teens interested? Have them spend the day making new friends all while giving back to their community by creating “go bags” for children in the foster care system. They’ll also take part in a collaborative art project that will be donated to public buildings, make no-sew polar fleece blankets for Project Linus, pack hygiene kits to help the homeless and create “thank you” bags for active servicemen and women. And no worries about packing lunch for them—snacks and pizza are free for all participants.
Bergen Community College
400 Paramus Road
Paramus, NJ 

Ocean City Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service
January 20, 9AM – 12PM 
We can all do our part: Help Ocean City celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by participating in a citywide cleanup in the morning. Afterward, head to Ocean City High School as the community comes together to remember Dr. King with songs, dance and words. Oh, and did we mention there’s a soul food feast in the cafeteria immediately after?
Ocean City Community Center (Senior Center) for clean-up supplies and instructions; ceremony at Ocean City High School at noon
1735 Simpson Avenue
Ocean City, NJ

Friends of Princeton Open Space MLK Day of Service in Nature
January 20, 9AM – 12PM
Get outdoors and enjoy quality fam time while restoring the Billy Johnson Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve. Everyone can get in on the restoration—guides will be there to help you identify and remove invasive species (great for kids that love all things insect) and you’ll also build deer exclusion cages, so trees stay protected and thrive. While you help, enjoy coffee, hot cider, and breakfast treats. Register now to be included in the headcount.
Mountain Lakes House
57 Mountain Ave
Princeton, NJ 

Scotch Plains Fanwood Martin Luther King Day of Service
January 20, 10am-5pm
Families are welcome to come celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King through service and song. Begin the day at the JCC of Scotch Plains and then head off to service sites to participate in different volunteer activities throughout the community, including making goody bags for veterans, tray favors for mobile meals or sandwiches for a local food pantry.
JCC of Scotch Plains
1391 Martine Ave
Scotch Plains, NJ 

Project H.E.R.O.I.S.M. 1-20-20 MLK Day of Service
January 20, 9:30AM – 12PM
While this isn’t a whole family event (it’s a drop-off for kids ages 4-12) it’s a good one to get kids to come together and spend time with each other learning about Dr. King’s vision. After, they’ll create bagged lunches and toiletry kits for the Hoboken Shelter, and then catch up on their day over lunch with their new friends served by the waitstaff of Northern Soul.
700 1st Street
Hoboken, NJ 
Cost: $25

Whitesbog MLK Jr. Day of Service
January 20, 10AM – 2PM
The whole fam can get their hands dirty at the historic Whitesbog, a former turn-of-the-century cranberry farm that’s now a historic site in the Brendan T. Byrne State Forest. They’ll be tasks for littles and bigs that include building and assembling, painting and clearing trails. Fuel up on hot drinks, water, juice, bananas and donuts, and don’t miss out on pizza for lunch.
120 W. Whitesbog Road
Browns Mills, NJ 


About Author

Athena is a former nursery school teacher turned marketing wizard at NJMOM, who lives for fashion and globetrotting. As an aunt to 9 little humans, she loves finding cool new activities to do together that will keep everyone smiling. On any given weekend day, you can find Athena eating all the Greek food at her fave local NJ restaurant, Local Greek, in Princeton. Which, not so ironically, is owned by her big fat Greek family.