Many Atlantans will focus on helping others on MLK Jr. holiday

On the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday, a day set aside to honor a man who spent his life fighting for the rights of others, Kristina Jones will spend her time helping other Girl Scouts make lunches for volunteers in the community.

Kaushal Tripathi, a computer engineer from Fayetteville, plans to spend his day helping people enhance their computer skills.

Other metro Atlantans will donate hours to feed the hungry, spruce up parks and use a little elbow grease to make repairs to the homes of senior citizens.

“I think it’s important to volunteer on Martin Luther King Day because he was all about civil rights and putting others before himself,” said Jones, a 14-year eighth-grader at Renfroe Middle School and member of Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta’s Troop 28433. “His day should be honored in that way and everyone should volunteer to help on that day.”

While Jones is an old hand at lending a hand, this will be Tripathi’s first time volunteering on King Day.

A native of India, Tripathi moved to the United States in 1990. Recently he has learned more about the civil rights leader who “was like an angel.”

“His whole life was not just preaching but doing,” said Tripathi, 55. “This is a day for us to volunteer and not just take it as a holiday to go to the beach or go to a bar and drink. This is a day to see who needs help.”

King would have turned 86 on Jan. 15, although his birthday is celebrated as a national holiday on Monday. It’s become known as a national day of service.

King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’”

This is one of several days a year when nonprofits and communities see a surge in volunteerism, said Karen Beavor, CEO of the Georgia Center for Nonprofits, which has more than 1,000 member organizations.

The holiday is a time for Georgians “to step back and remember that we are citizens of a community,” she said. “It’s a great platform for nonprofits to not only remind the public about what they do, but also to recruit additional volunteers.”

Businesses often promote the day and encourage employees to volunteer, as do some churches and organizations.

For instance, nearly 100 volunteers from FedEx in Atlanta will help pack meals for Stop Hunger Now and its international partners will deliver around the world.

The Tucker Civic Association will host a clean up event from 9 a.m. to noon at Brockett Elementary School, 1855 Brockett Road. Volunteers will be raking, mulching and doing other yard work. The association is also accepting donations of school supplies.

Elisabeth Omilami, CEO, of Hosea Feed the Hungry & Homeless is gearing up for the nonprofit’s annual MLK day lunch program, which uses more than 300 volunteers. There is a need for more volunteers.

But Omilami says you don’t have to work with an organization to do good.

Those interested in volunteering can look around their communities and see where they can pitch in, she said. She suggests taking hygiene supplies to a shelter or perhaps taking dinner or gift baskets to a senior community.

Looking for volunteer opportunities?

Hands on Atlanta provides a listing of opportunities for volunteers: www.handsonatlanta.org.

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