Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the March On Washington in 1963.
CNN  — 

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is officially set for Monday, January 17 this year, but it is never too early to do something good. Dr. King’s holiday celebrates the civil rights leader’s life by encouraging community service. Here are a few creative ways people of all ages can help the world around them in honor of Dr. King.

Learn from King’s legacy

On January 14, the Friday before MLK Day, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (The King Center) is holding a global “Teach-In.” The center is offering educators access to lesson plans and activities on the work, teachings and philosophies of Dr. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King.

“We want to inspire students to believe that they can make a difference, that they can be part of the change they want to see in the world,” Chance Patterson from the King Center told CNN.

The lesson plans are free to download and are available for grades K-12. Patterson, however, said the teachings are not limited to MLK weekend or educators, “Ultimately, we’d love for them to be used on an ongoing basis and really become a gateway or an introduction to the Kingian philosophy.”

Be a part of history

The Smithsonian Institution and Library of Congress are both looking for volunteers to digitally transcribe historical documents. The projects range from African American history and women’s suffrage to the personal letters and journals of historical figures. The digital transcriptions are aimed at helping to make the documents more widely available for the public and more accessible for people with vision impairments.

AmeriCorps volunteers at work on a project.

Celebrate the “day on” in your local community

MLK Day is observed as a national day of service; “a day on, not a day off.” Even though Covid-19 is still quickly spreading through the country, there are still some opportunities available for those who would like to volunteer in person. AmeriCorps has a searchable database of MLK day volunteer opportunities available around the country. Simply put in your zip code and click on the “MLK Day” box to find the projects available in your area.

Fund those on the front lines

If volunteering is not an option this year, considering donating to organizations working year-round to support the social justice causes Dr. King dedicated his life to.

The Equal Justice Initiative works to end mass incarceration, excessive punishment, and racial inequality. The organization provides legal representation and research for criminal justice reform. It is also heavily involved in public education about racial injustice in America. In 2018, EJI opened the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. The Museum, which is normally closed on Mondays, will be open to visitors on MLK Day.

The National Urban League has been fighting for African Americans and others for more than 100 years. The organization works towards civil rights and economic empowerment by providing education, job training and community development to those in need.

Volunteer on MLK Day 2021 in New York.

“Just do something good”

One positive thing that has come about during the pandemic is the rise in creative volunteering. Tim Adkins with Hands On Atlanta is working with many organizations, including the King Center, to coordinate MLK volunteer projects in Atlanta. He said the bottom line is “just do something good.” Adkins added if time is an issue, there are many ways to participate in “on-demand” volunteering.

Much like digitally transcribing historical documents, there are plenty of altruistic apps available that allow anyone to volunteer and help others anytime they can. Adkins said there are “on-demand volunteering” apps that can help those with vision impairments, those who need help with language translation or those looking for career or mentoring advice.

For the less tech-savvy, Adkins suggested keeping it simple. The last two years have been hard on essential workers, especially health care workers. Take some time to write thank you letters or show your appreciation to those working on the front lines. Adkins, whose partner is a health care worker, said you never know when “the right letter at the right time” will help to pick someone up.

“With virtual (volunteering) you don’t necessarily have to solve a problem. You can just make somebody’s day and that’s kind of going back to that just do something good thing.”