Day of Service a chance to give back to the community

The National Day of Service gives people a chance to volunteer with groups in their neighborhood.

Building a ramp for a disabled veteran and organizing a warehouse full of clothes for foster children are among the many service projects available to people looking to volunteer Saturday as a part of the National Day of Service.

The annual event, normally held on the Martin Luther King. Jr. holiday, is an opportunity for people to honor the civil rights leader by volunteering for service projects in their community. There are projects planned in all 50 states, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that promotes service efforts.

Several volunteer organizations, such as United Service Organization, Habitat for Humanity and Youth Service America, hold annual service projects as a part of the National Day of Service.

Habitat for Humanity projects this year include installing handrails to the front and back of a home for an elderly couple in Texas, and repairing a child development center in North Carolina.

Talia Moffitt, spokeswoman for Habitat for Humanity, said they will also be working in conjunction with AmeriCorps volunteers.

Both Habitat for Humanity and YSA have seen more volunteers for their MLK Day projects. In the Greater Pittsburg area, 500 volunteers are expected to show up to 25 separate Habitat for Humanity projects, compared to 275 volunteers and 17 projects last year when it held its first National Day of Service.

Laura Binz, spokeswoman for YSA, said they will hold 100 service projects around the country for MLK Day, which exceeds the number from last year.

For YSA, which provides service opportunities for youth, the National Day of Service is considered a kick-off date for many of their projects. These semester projects go on for three months until Global Youth Service Day April 26-28, Binz said. 

In 2011, the Corporation for National and Community Service gave YSA an $80,000 grant for the 2012 National Day of Service. YSA received another grant this year and was made one of six official organizers for 16 National Day of Service projects. Some of the projects include assembling care packages for troops stationed overseas and collecting blankets for the homeless.

YSA’s semester projects that continue until April include watershed restoration in Washington state and developing a children’s library for a Texas elementary school.

The National Day of Service was first started during President Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009. This year it was moved to Saturday to not conflict with the president's inauguration on Monday.

Chelsea Clinton has been selected to be the honorary chair for this year’s National Day of Service.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee will host volunteer events in Washington, D.C., and around the country. In the National Mall there will be least 99 organizations with booths set up. Participants will be asked to sign a pledge stating the number of service hours they intend to complete throughout the year.

To find local volunteer events in your area, go to http://2013pic.org/service and enter your ZIP code.

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