By Patricia Hall, FairfaxFamilyFun.com
Martin Luther King (MLK) Jr. Day is coming up on Monday, January 21, 2019. It’s a federal holiday and day off from school for many kids, so some local families will find themselves with a bonus day to spend together!
What started as a day to pay tribute to an iconic American often now serves as good opportunity for volunteering, with some businesses and organizations using the holiday as a “day on, not off.”
Whether you plan to learn more about Dr. King, honor his legacy through volunteering, spend quality time with the kids, or all of the above, we have some ideas to make the most of your day! Our list below for 2019 includes:
- MLK remembrance ceremonies
- Local volunteer opportunities
- Children’s shows and free admission to national parks
1. Honor Dr. King at area celebrations with music, a parade, and volunteering
Reston Community Center (RCC) has several events to celebrate the Martin Luther King birthday. The annual three-day celebration, now in its 34th year, takes place this time January 19-21. Activities include performances by the Reston Community Orchestra and singer-songwriter Crys Matthews, community service projects, an art exhibit, the Voices of Inspiration Program sponsored by the Reston Martin Luther King Jr. Church hosted by the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation, and a Keynote Speech by DeRay Mckesson followed by a community luncheon.
On Sunday the 19th, you can make it a day of service by volunteering at one of several indoor or outdoor community projects taking place in various locations. These include making bagged lunches for shelter residents or cleaning up natural areas. After a morning of volunteering, you can enjoy a lunch. Then at 4 pm, enjoy a free, all-ages Reston Community Orchestra concert at RCC Hunter Woods that honors Dr. King’s life and legacy.
Also honoring Dr. King through art and performance is the Alden Theatre at McLean Community Center. Its MLK Day Celebration features “Liner Notes,” a 90-minute show ($15-25) featuring jazz standards, hip hop samples and actual liner notes from musicians of the civil rights movement in a multimedia concert experience. Finally, if you’re headed into DC to visit the MLK memorial on Monday, Jan. 21, you may want to get there early for the wreathlaying service at 8 am. There also will be a parade at 11:30 am in the Anacostia neighborhood.
2. Make it “a day on, not a day off”
In the spirit of Dr. King’s legacy, the holiday for many has become the MLK Day of Sercice, an opportunity to make it “a day on, not day off,” for people to serve in their communities. It’s always best to contact these groups well ahead of time to see what their greatest needs for help are — and when. In addition to the volunteer activities at the Reston Community Center (see section above) other community groups are hosting opportunities to serve.
Locally, check with Volunteer Fairfax, which is a great resource for finding year-round volunteer opportunities, has a day of service planned, called Give Together: A Family Volunteer Day. Nearby, Volunteer Alexandria and Northern Virginia Community College also is implementing a day of service. Projects will include assembling emergency preparedness starter kits, sorting donated food and creating no-sew blankets, and include opportunities for volunteers of all ages.
Also contact the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Goodwill, Carpenter’s Shelter, Alternative House,Western Fairfax Christian Ministries, Cornerstones (formerly Reston Interfaith), Britepaths (formerly Our Daily Bread), and even animal rescue groups and shelters such as Friends of Homeless Animals, Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation, Homeless Animals Rescue Team, and Friends of the Fairfax County Animal Shelter, to see what their most pressing needs are. They may still be short of volunteers for service projects on MLK Day, or maybe you can drop by with a cash or goods donation.
3. Enjoy time off with the kids
Time with our kids is limited — and precious — so on this day off, enjoy the extra time with your little ones! Some fun special events today include a special matinee performance in Alexandria by Aldersgate Church Community Theatre of “Guys and Dolls, Jr.” ($12 per ticket). And on MLK Day, all national parks that normally charge a fee, including nearby Great Falls Park, offer free admission!