Next week begins with Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day and its associated day of service.

It’s time to get down to business now that all the glitz and glitter of the holidays has disappeared, packed away in the attic (or hauled to recycling). In other words, all that fa-la-la has met the same fate as the Christmas tree.

I got to thinking about the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, and how its observance could be used to effect change, and increase volunteerism, in the Golden Isles. In fact, I visited the day of service website at service.gov, and discovered a number of volunteer opportunities available locally. Then my mind went down its proverbial rabbit hole and I began to imagine all the ways people could work to improve this marvelous place we call home.

Of course, I don’t have a complete list of agencies and organizations that work to make a difference in the lives of others, and I may not touch upon anything you’re interested in, but I trust everyone can find somewhere to land.

Let’s start with education. Several churches and other community service organizations offer opportunities to read to children in area schools. Barring that, any number of after-school programs would be delighted to have extra assistance with tutoring and homework help. Ring up the school system and find a way to plug into a childhood literacy program.

If school isn’t your thing, perhaps the environment is. You could try a traditional route by joining one of several area garden clubs that work tirelessly for beautification, join up with Keep Golden Isles Beautiful which holds several cleanups and other events throughout the year or by working at Hofwyl-Broadfield State Historic Site or Fort Frederica National Monument, or with environmental advocates such as 100 Miles, the Altamaha Riverkeeper or the Glynn Environmental Coalition.

Too outdoorsy? Health care? The Southeast Georgia Health System uses volunteers in many capacities, as do organizations such as the American Cancer Society and MAP International.

OK. You don’t like hospitals. How about helping care for folks who have found themselves in a tough spot, and are facing hunger and homelessness? America’s Second Harvest is always searching for volunteers to stock shelves at its food bank. Manna House, on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, relies on volunteers from area houses of worship and community organizations to cook and serve its meals. FaithWorks, which oversees the Sparrow’s Nest food bank and The Well, a day shelter for homeless men and women in downtown Brunswick, among several other missions, always needs volunteers.

Safe Harbor Children’s Shelter, which is having a new facility constructed on a lot adjacent to The Well, protects the community’s most vulnerable children and youth. When the new facility is completed, its residents will have a safe, secure place to live, and staff will have the space and amenities available to serve the children there. They too, are seeking volunteers.

Amity House, at undisclosed locations (with good reason) serves women and children who have had to flee domestic violence situations and have nowhere else to turn. They find shelter there and, with the help of available services, begin the road back to their new normal.

CASA Glynn (Court Appointed Special Advocates) trains volunteers to advocate and guide children through the juvenile court process after they have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect.

Every single one of these organizations needs people to perform a myriad of tasks.

A number of folks enjoy working with children and get involved by supporting the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeast Georgia, CIA (Children in Action) Sports Club, The Gathering Place or Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

It goes without saying that there is a seemingly infinite number of service organizations who strive to better the lives of their constituents, and by extension, the lives of everyone. And, if you can’t decide on one, give the United Way of Coastal Georgia a call.

Of course, not all people are cut out for the same types of community service — some use their talents to strengthen art and music organizations such as the Coastal Symphony of Georgia, Golden Isles Live!, the Island Concert Association, The Island Players, Glynn Visual Arts and Golden Isles Arts & Humanities.

The majority of those organizations offer multiple ways to be involved. One can be an artist or performer or a student, volunteer or consumer. The level of a person’s involvement is only limited by the time they can commit to a specific group.

Throughout my years in the community, it’s been my pleasure to work with a number of these organizations whether it was writing about them, volunteering or being a member of their boards of directors. I can honestly say it would be hard to find a better group of people anywhere. There is a sizable chunk of the area population that volunteers its time and talents to serve others, but there is always plenty of room in the pool for others to jump in. Volunteering levels the playing field and permits anyone, regardless of budget, to help build their community. Through helping others, we strengthen our community, and chip away at illiteracy, poverty and crime.

So as Dr. King is honored on Monday, I encourage you to remember his words.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

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