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How to make service a part of your life using JustServe on Martin Luther King Jr. Day


This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Americans are invited to volunteer in their local communities.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a national holiday honored every third Monday in January. In 1994, Congress passed a bill dedicating the day as a national day of service. The holiday recognizes the Rev. King’s legacy, focuses on the issue of civil rights, highlights the use of nonviolence to promote change, and calls people into public service.
JustServe specialists are encouraging people to do service today, whether through acts of kindness or through an organized volunteer effort. People can look for those service opportunities and projects on JustServe.org, which is a way to connect community organizations with volunteers.  

A JustServe social media post explains, “As we honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy today, may we always remember that one person can make a difference.”

How to use JustServe to find service opportunities

First, go to the website, JustServe.org, or download the app from the Apple store or Google Play, and then open the app, explained Erin Longhurst, a JustServe specialist for the North America Northeast Area.

“When you go to the website or app, type in your zip code and it will auto-populate the projects in your area,” said Longhurst. “That’s the first and easiest step.”

People can also select “volunteer remotely” instead of putting in a zip code.

The JustServe.org website begins by asking people to put in their city, state or postal code, or choose the “volunteer remotely” option.

The JustServe.org website begins by asking people to put in their city, state or postal code, or choose the “volunteer remotely” option.

Credit: Screenshot: JustServe.org

As of Monday morning, a search for projects in the Salt Lake City area came up with options like tutoring, giving blood, collecting food, gathering supplies or making winter kits for people in need.
And some of the remote projects included making scarves for deployed U.S. troops, collecting valentines for sick children, writing letters to senior citizens, and purchasing items from online registries for refugees.

How to use filters on JustServe

Longhurst said many people look by zip code, but using filters and key words can make JustServe a more personal experience. This narrows projects into age, skill, topic and many other helpful categories.

JustServe gives different options to narrow the options to serve, by age, type of project, date range and location.

JustServe gives different options to narrow the options to serve, by age, type of project, date range and location.

Credit: Screenshot: JustServe.org

“You can search for a keyword, like something related specifically to African American issues for Martin Luther King Jr. Day,” she explained. “Or say I am interested in animals, or education or literacy, or family history and genealogy — you can search that term and see what comes up.”
Longhurst encourages people to think of their talents when looking for specific service opportunities. They can filter projects by volunteer skills and find something where they can be especially helpful.
The date-ranges filter can also be helpful, she said. So can filters for individual or group projects.

JustServe.org has filters to allow people to add their volunteer skills or the topics they are interested in, and find service projects more tailored to those skills and topics.

JustServe.org has filters to allow people to add their volunteer skills or the topics they are interested in, and find service projects more tailored to those skills and topics.

Credit: Screenshot: JustServe.org

Creating a project on JustServe

If someone wants to do something specific that they are not seeing on the app or website, or if Church youth groups and wards want to create a service project, Longhurst encourages them to reach out to the local JustServe specialist for their stake. They can coordinate to find or create an appropriate project.

Service projects work best when they are community focused, said Longhurst. “We want it to be a project for a specific organization. Find organizations in the community that need help and where we are meeting their needs.”
Stake JustServe specialists can also find ways to expand a project and get other stakes and organizations involved.

The JustServe.org website is now available in Spanish and several other languages to help would-be volunteers across the globe find opportunities to serve in their own communities.

The JustServe.org website is now available in Spanish and several other languages to help would-be volunteers across the globe find opportunities to serve in their own communities.

Credit: JustServe.org screenshot

And people can also do good without participating in an official project. One JustServe post explained that these acts of service and kindness can include shoveling someone’s walk, welcoming a new neighbor, opening a door for a stranger, sharing a smile, picking up litter, helping with groceries, letting someone else have that prime parking spot or taking someone’s garbage out.

What service does

Longhurst’s area covers parts of Canada and states from New England down to North Carolina and over to Indiana and Michigan. She has seen through her position as a JustServe specialist how community service and volunteering changes the lives of the givers and receivers.

She knows of one woman who was unable to hold a full-time job because of some physical challenges. The woman wanted to do something meaningful, so she decided to start volunteering. As she developed relationships in the community through volunteering, she found a career she was physically capable of doing and passionate about at the same time.
Longhurst has also seen service change people’s opinions about things. They come to understand better and relate better to people who are different than them.  

Read more: On the day honoring Martin Luther King Jr., President Nelson asks all to ‘labor together to abandon attitudes and actions of prejudice’

“As people get out in the community and volunteer, you see them acknowledge that the challenges they face aren’t as bad as they thought they were,” she said. “Things that are hard that they are going through, they have more power to handle.”

Serving on a day like Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a great way to connect with people who are different and who are not in one’s circle, said Longhurst. People can also develop and strengthen friendships by inviting friends to serve with them.

Longhurst said service has made her a better person. “I look first with empathy to people with different experiences, instead of comparing their experience to mine.”

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