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Why this Monday is a Day ON, Not a Day Off

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How one female founder is preparing to serve in honor of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Melanie Hamburger (CEO & Founder, Catalytic Women)

Rarely do I make formal New Year’s resolutions, but 2014 has been different. I welcomed this year in New York City — mercifully, not among the throngs of partygoers in Times Square, but rather surrounded by family and friends as we quietly toasted 2014. As a startup founder and as a parent, I want to make my mark. Sometimes we can do it in big ways. Other times it’s small gestures that make meaningful change. The turn of the year provides an opportunity to reflect. To act.

Back at home, my San Francisco office is one half-block from the carved granite tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I never pass up an opportunity to walk behind the waterfall and read his inspiring words. I, too, have a dream that my children will be judged by the content of their character.

Monday, January 20, marks the National Day of Service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

One of my resolutions for 2014 is to volunteer more with my kids. Frankly, I’m embarrassed that it hasn’t happened more regularly. Most of my waking hours are spent on community impact and making philanthropy accessible to all.

For work, I live and breathe nonprofits and social impact, and never cease to be awed by the change they make in the world around us. But I live in a community that lacks racial and socio-economic diversity. Shocked, my daughter told me the story of a classmate who, when asked what special gift he received for the holidays, complained that he didn’t get anything… only an iPhone 5.

I want a deeper, richer, experience for my own kids.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service inspires us to honor a man whose “lectures and dialogues stirred the concern and sparked the conscience of a generation… [whose] charismatic leadership inspired men and women, young and old, in this nation and around the world.”

As I face just a few short years before my kids are off to college, I also face the limitations of my parental influence. I want to use every moment to set an example for good decision-making — like giving back, working hard and standing up for what you believe is important, not to mention empathy, acceptance, generosity and appreciation.

President Nelson Mandela’s recent passing and the upcoming holiday of service honoring Dr. King make change feel so real. I’ve been looking online for volunteer opportunities for teens. Due, I suspect, to arcane insurance laws, it’s surprisingly hard to contribute hands-on if one is under the age of 18. With my two teens on the cusp of Millennial social activism, I know they’ll find their own way to give back, but I’d love to be part of that journey.

Here are some sites to help you step up on January 20 and turn a day off into a Day On:

  • The National Points of Light Project promotes volunteering, specifically through the Hands On Volunteer Network of local community volunteer projects and Generation On, which empowers kids and teens to make their mark.
  • DoSomething.org offers the kinds of projects that have engaged over 2 million young people in taking action.
  • Volunteer Match allow you to find an opportunity in your community by zip code, as will a quick Google search for the nearest Volunteer Center.
  • United We Serve is President Obama’s call to service initiative, and offers project ideas and resources.

I’ll be out volunteering; won’t you join me?

We’re adding a community page to our website. I hope you’ll share the ways you found volunteer projects and participated in a nationwide movement of service honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. on January 20. I’ll be reporting back on my own New Year’s resolutions. I look forward to seeing what change we can make together.

Are you planning on volunteering on January 20th?

 

About the guest blogger: Melanie Hamburger is CEO of Catalytic Women, a community of women who are disrupting philanthropy. Follow her @CatalyticMel