January 18, 2021 will mark the twenty-sixth anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people across the country gather to celebrate what will help us move closer to Dr. King’s dream of creating a “beloved community.” Volunteering is a great way to give back to your community. Still, it’s always important to remember to take the appropriate safety measures to protect your eyesight no matter how you choose to give back. Here are a few organizations that support the MLK Day of Service, as well as tips for how you can protect your eyesight while making a difference.
• Your local animal shelter
• Local soup kitchen
• Homeless shelters
• Pick up trash at a local park or adopt a city street
Volunteer at Your Local Animal Shelter
Animal shelters and humane societies work around the clock to help animals in the community find their forever homes. Although many people may have a negative view of animal shelters, the work they do is thankless and exhausting, but more important than you can put into words.
There are tons of ways that you can volunteer with your local animal shelter during the MLK Day of Service. Reach out to your local animal shelter, humane society, or animal rescue organization and ask if they are currently accepting volunteers for dog walking or cat cuddling. All shelter animals need mental stimulation and exercise, and volunteers are a huge part of making that happen. The groups may also need donations of food, treats, cleaning supplies or other items, or even help cleaning the facilities.
When you sign up to volunteer, be sure to ask what kind of items you need to wear or bring, such as sunglasses or safety glasses to protect your eyesight. Regardless of what you’ll be doing, make sure you wear the right shoes and clothing, and bring items to protect your eyesight from the sun or chemicals from cleaning supplies.
If you will be walking dogs, bring a pair of sunglasses and apply sunscreen to protect your skin. If you offer to help clean, make sure you wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty, as well as the appropriate safety glasses, gloves, and a mask!
Serve Meals at Your Local Soup Kitchen
Each day, millions of people rely on local soup kitchens and food banks to receive a healthy, warm meal. For many, it’s the only meal they’ll have each day. Local soup kitchens are always in need of volunteers and donations, and there’s no better time to volunteer than the MLK Day of Service.
Start by contacting your local food bank or soup kitchen and asking how they’re serving people during the pandemic. Rather than providing meals on-site, the organization may be operating pick-up meals or delivering to different locations. You can offer to help prepare and serve meals, unload deliveries, or stock shelves.
The pandemic has also increased the number of people who need services from local food banks and soup kitchens, which means food items may be in short supply. If you’re able, collecting donations for your local soup kitchen is a great way to get involved. Get together with your neighbors, coworkers, friends, and family members, and collect requested items for the organization.
If you’re collecting donations, serving meals, or unloading deliveries, make sure you wear the appropriate safety glasses or sunglasses, depending on whether you’re inside or outside. Don’t forget to add a hairnet, mask, gloves, and comfortable footwear to your ensemble!
Collect Donations for Homeless Shelters
The pandemic has hit people hard this year. Many are facing eviction or homelessness in addition to unemployment and the death of friends and family members to COVID-19. Homeless shelters do incredible work in communities to ensure people have a safe and warm place to stay when they’re in need.
Local homeless shelters provide a rewarding opportunity for volunteering during the MLK Day of Service and throughout the year in general. Reach out to your local homeless shelter or churches to determine what types of items are most requested by the people they serve. Often people need warm clothes such as hats, scarves, socks, and jackets during the winter and toiletry items such as deodorant, soap, feminine products, a toothbrush, and over-the-counter pain medication. Another great idea is to donate sunscreen and sunglasses. Many homeless people spend all day out in the elements without supplies to protect and correct their eyesight, and things like sunglasses and sunscreen are a luxury they don’t have access to. Consider donating inexpensive sunglasses, old reading glasses, and bottles of sunscreen to your local homeless shelter as well.
Pick up Trash at a Local Park or Adopt a City Street
Supporting your community by picking up trash and making your streets and shared green spaces more attractive is a great way to spend a few hours for the MLK Day of Service. Get together with a few friends to adopt a city street or select a local park or greenway to walk and pick-up trash. It’s incredible how big of a difference you can make by taking the time to pick-up discarded items along the roadway.
Before you begin, make sure you have the essentials:
• Sunglasses: If you’ll be outside for any length of time, wearing sunglasses is an absolute must to protect your eyesight. We recommend an inexpensive pair of sunglasses in case they fall off and get lost or damaged.
• Gloves: Even if you have trash grabbers or poles, wearing gloves will help protect your hands from anything you may accidentally touch. Your goal is to collect trash, not germs!
• Safety glasses: Protecting our eyesight should always be a priority. Safety glasses fall into the category of “better safe than sorry.” You never know when something may fly up and hit you in the eye, especially when you’re working outside along a road or picking up discarded trash. Rocks, sand, and other debris can get into your eyes and cause damage to your eyesight or an eye infection. Sunglasses and safety glasses can keep you safe and prevent a trip to the hospital or urgent care facility.
• Bright clothing or vest: A safety vest is just as important as sunglasses and safety glasses when you’re picking up trash. Being visible, especially when you’re working on the side of a road, is crucial to staying safe from traffic. Always be aware of your surroundings and assume that people aren’t paying enough attention when you’re walking near a road.
• A phone: Having a way to get in contact with someone in case of an emergency is always crucial, especially when you’re walking along a road or through a park. If someone gets hurt or gets lost, you need a way to call for assistance. You can also use your phone to take pictures to share on social media and encourage others to volunteer and make a difference in their communities!
Each year, WebEyeCare gives back by partnering with Bristol Borough Community Action Group, a resource for those experiencing food insecurity in Bristol Borough, Pennsylvania, and its surrounding communities. Each week, the nonprofit action group provides thousands of pounds of food and nonperishable items to people in need. The WebEyeCare staff host food drives throughout the year to help supply the organization with items ranging from canned fruit and pasta to cereal, peanut butter, and more. No matter how you choose to give back for the MLK Day of Service, know that your actions will make a difference in your community.