MLK Day of Service: Volunteer to Clean Your River


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once stated in 1957, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’”  His words continue to resonate with us to this day as the upcoming anniversary of his birth approaches on January 16, 2012.

On August 23, 1994 under President Bill Clinton, federal legislation was signed into law, transforming this holiday into a citizen action day through service to your neighbors and community.  According to President Obama’s United We Serve initiative, “The MLK Day of Service is a part of the President’s national call to service initiative. It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems.”

The powerful image of the new monument erected in Dr. King’s honor in West Potomac Park near the National Mall is a tribute to his call for justice, and legacy of service.  Visiting the memorial inspires my own desire to serve. 

In celebration of this holiday, I planned a trip to the North Fork of the Shenandoah River with my sisters.  We all attended James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and enjoyed hiking and paddling the rivers together over the years.  We will spend the holiday hiking and planned an informal cleanup of the river with friends and family – Mom promised a delicious lunch, of course. We hope that our simple act of leaving a natural place better than we found it may help others enjoy the North Fork in the same way that we have all these year.

I urge you to consider Dr. King’s question “What are you doing for others?”  Whether it is through an informal or formal river cleanup or volunteering in a way that is meaningful to you – take action.  His legacy of service is alive and encourages us to make service part of our everyday lives.  If you would like to find a cleanup or host your own, visit our National River Cleanup page.

We would love to hear your stories of service on this holiday.  Comment below or share pictures and videos by posting to the American Rivers Facebook wall.