By Troy Singleton | New Jersey State Senator District 7
When we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, on Monday, January 20th, well-deserved accolades will follow this giant of the civil rights movement and champion of social justice. It is a fitting gesture and one that should inspire all of us to emulate him in our own way, however modest.
I would suggest that if we really want to honor Dr. King’s legacy, there is even a more potent and fulfilling way beyond thankful words: Let’s start by engaging our community with a servant’s mindset towards giving back to our communities.
This Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day marks the 25th anniversary of the day of service that celebrates the civil rights leader’s life and legacy. Observed each year on the third Monday in January as “a day on, not a day off,” MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service, to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities. The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) has led the charge in this effort for the last quarter century.
You may be asking how will I be honoring Dr. Martin Luther King on his day? Well in addition to attending several commemorative events around our district, each year I use it as an opportunity to host my annual “Serve with Senator Singleton” event with Habitat for Humanity.
Our Serve with Senator Singleton events are held monthly and were inspired by the days of service events that were being held around the country on Dr. Martin Luther King’s Day. But instead of being of service once a year, I have challenged myself to host a day of service 12 months of the year.
And I am not alone in this mission. Every month I ask community volunteers to join me – so we can cooperatively make a tangible difference in our communities. These volunteers are from all different backgrounds. They are young and old, big and small, strong and sometimes delicate. But together, working in partnership, we make a difference.
To date, we have donated more than 1,000 hours of community service. We have worked on 25 different community service projects throughout Burlington County. We’ve painted homes, landscaped domestic violence shelters, and cleaned-up shorelines. The work we do is humbling, yet important.
The skills and the talents of our volunteers vary greatly. But that doesn’t matter. Because as Dr. King said, “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.”
So, I invite you to join me in our quest to carry on Dr. King’s memory by being of service to one another, to your communities, and to our nation. Because in spite of our different backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs, we are one nation, and we are in this together. In this seemingly indifferent world, Dr. King would want us to make a difference in our world.
With your commitment and participation to serve, you have done more than help your fellow citizen; you have truly honored Dr. King’s legacy.
That’s my take. What’s yours?
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