“Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.

Volunteer Fairfax was pleased to combine two popular family-friendly volunteer events – Valentines Challenge and Give Together, into the 2021 MLK, Jr. Weekend of Service. In both events, volunteers worked on service projects from the safety of their homes, school, or after school programs.  Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors and some ingenuity in sorting supplies, we were able to distribute nearly 1000 project supply kits out to the community!  Our goal was to ensure that, regardless of access or ability to purchase materials, everyone should know the power of Dr. King’s call to service.  We were honored to work with nonprofit organizations like Cornerstones, Lorton Community Action Center, Neighborhood Community Services, and other local civic groups like the Jack and Jill Club of America, Inc. to ensure that several supply kits went to vulnerable youth populations.   

Making its debut this year was the first-ever MLK, Jr. Volunteer Guidebook which was available in hard-copy or digital download to those who registered to participate in Give Together   This outstanding publication outlines actionable service project ideas to engage families.  Parents and educators can select projects based on key mission areas including food insecurity, social justice, elder care, and homelessness.   The Guidebook also includes “Step-Up” Challenges geared towards helping teens make simple service ideas actionable with their peers and within their communities.

“Thank you so much for this resource book – it’s set up so nicely, in a way that really helps families engage with their kids of all ages to do something meaningful within the local community.  I appreciate all of the local extensions/ community contacts, and the overall format with very clear guidance and thought- and conversation-provoking questions.  Thanks for putting this together for families looking to volunteer during the pandemic!  -Kristin Kuyuk.

“Well done!  Impressive jobs on the booklet and service projects ideas!” -Sara Holtz, 2020 Providence Community Champion

This year, the Valentines’ Day Challenge expanded its mission beyond supporting youth aging out of the foster care system and challenged the community to share the love with frontline healthcare workers.  Based on the overwhelming response for supply kits, we expect our volunteers to have hand-crafted more than 10,000 valentine cards that will be distributed to the following organizations:  Foster Care to Success,  Fairfax County Foster Care System, Adoption and Kinship Children, Children’s National Medical Center, INOVA Hospital System, Walter Reed Medical Center and Wounded Warriors.

We know that those receiving these cards will appreciate the good wishes of the community displaying the creative cards kids and adults alike have so thoughtfully created.  To see card making in action along with other Weekend of Service activities, visit the VF Kudoboard. These images have been posted by the community as they share their amazing work and talents.

One of the highlights of the MLK, Jr. Weekend of Service was having  U.S. Naval Academy’s Midshipman 1st Class Sydney Barber join us in recognizing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of service with a video message to families to help foster volunteerism with young people.  Midshipman 1st Class Sydney Barber, the Naval Academy’s first African American female brigade commander, has an impressive list of accomplishments including her volunteerism working with a STEM outreach program that leverages mentoring, literature, and service lessons for middle school-aged girls of color.  She recorded an inspiring kick-off message that can be viewed here.

Thanks to Lead Partners – AT&T, Leidos, and Transurban. Gold Supporter – CGI and Silver Supporters – Deloitte, NetApp, Northwest Federal Credit Union, and NOVEC, Foundation Supporter – Virginia Service Foundation, and In-Kind Supporter – Wegmans for making this event possible!  Special mention to our longtime partner, the Pozez Jewish Community Center, where we hosted a food drive on MLK, Jr. Day that provided 781 pounds of food to Food for Others.

Our hope for the year’s event is to inspire children and youth to observe what’s going on in their community, ask questions of why something might be happening, dream of how things could be different, and feel empowered to be great agents of change.  Seeing and hearing from so many of you, despite difficult times, lets us know that together we can accomplish great things!  We can be great because we can serve.

For more service ideas for you and your family, please visit our volunteer opportunity database VolunteerNow!