Parents and kids collect trash in the Maryland part of Rock Creek Park on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which hundreds of thousands of Americans celebrate by volunteering in their communities. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

For most kids, Martin Luther King Jr. Day means a day off school.

But Wendy Spencer, who heads the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), would like kids to start thinking about the holiday as a “day on.”

Since 1994, the CNCS has been celebrating King’s birthday by organizing a national day of service. Each year, hundreds of thousands of participants spend the day volunteering at parks, food pantries, homeless shelters, community gardens, hospitals and other places.

“Dr. King was so much about service and giving back and community gatherings and bringing people together from all walks of life,” Spencer said. “What better way to honor him than . . . by making it a day of service that lives out what he preached about?”

Are you feeling inspired to volunteer? Here are three opportunities for kids to participate in the MLK Day of Service. All events take place January 19. (Always ask a parent before going online.)

Anacostia Park cleanup

Help make Washington more beautiful. Volunteers will spend the morning planting trees, removing weeds and picking up litter.

Where: Anacostia Park, 1900 Anacostia Drive SE.

When: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Register: (Registration required.)

Contact: Lori Robertson of the Student Conservation Association
at 973-868-2189 or

Montgomery County volunteer fair

Work on one of nearly 40 projects, including packing goody bags for kids in foster care and making bracelets for troops overseas, and learn about service opportunities for the rest of the year. This is one of five service projects for MLK Day coordinated by the Montgomery County Volunteer Center.

Where: Bethesda North Marriott Conference Center, 5701 Marinelli Road, North Bethesda.

When: 1 to 3 p.m.

Register: (Registration suggested.)

Contact: Molly Callaway of the Montgomery County Volunteer Center at 240-777-2607 or molly.callaway@­

‘Give Together’ with Volunteer Fairfax

Participate in family-oriented volunteer activities, such as assembling emergency preparedness kits and creating gifts bags for kids, at one of two locations in Fairfax County.

Where: Redeemer Lutheran Church, 1545 Chain Bridge Road, McLean.

When: 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Where: Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia, 8900 Little River Turnpike, Fairfax.

When: 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Register: (Registration required.)

Contact: Angela Saiza Starling of Volunteer Fairfax at 703-246-3470 or

Sarah Kaplan

★ Find more service opportunities for kids and adults at