The birthday of civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., became a federal holiday in 1983. It took another decade for a federal law to create the King Day of Service — honoring the slain activist by encouraging all Americans to get busy helping out in their own communities.
Here in Clark County, there's plenty to do throughout the long King holiday weekend. (King was born Jan. 15, 1929; the federal holiday is always the third Monday in January.) No matter where you are, there's a project to be found on a day that works for you.
While local charities are usually glad to field their own volunteer calls, some have arranged to have this weekend's expected load handled by clearinghouses: Hands On Greater Portland, 503-200-3355, is operated by United Way; Park Hero, 360-487-8344, connects volunteers with Clark County park projects. Visit these sites and click the links for special King Day of Service activities — or use them to sign up for ongoing opportunities.
Some opportunities may be limited and have different preregistration and age requirements, so it would be wise to take an early look and sign up soon. If you're under 18, you may need to bring a parent or a parental consent form with you.
If you're planning to work outside, dress appropriately — warm clothes, work shoes and gloves are crucial — and bring your own tools and water bottle if you can. (No power tools, please.) Here's our list:
Saturday, Jan. 19
• Label books, or prepare program materials and mailings for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District's ESL literacy program. Volunteers will learn about the library system and how it promotes literacy in the region. The shift is 10 a.m. to noon. Ages 5 and up are welcome, but if you're 13 or younger you must be accompanied by an adult. Sign up through Hands On Greater Portland. You'll be contacted with details.
• Work the warehouse at Vancouver's Habitat for Humanity ReStore. That's a store for recycled, used and surplus building materials that benefits Habitat for Humanity's mission of building affordable housing for families. The shift is 9 a.m. to noon. You must be at least 16 years old. The ReStore is at 5000 East Fourth Plain Blvd. Sign up through Hands On Greater Portland.
Sunday, Jan. 20
• Remodel the YWCA Clark County. New carpet is headed for the east wing of the Y's home at 2500 Main St. The Y, which operates numerous programs fighting sexism, racism and injustice, is looking for volunteers to help move furniture before and after the carpet installation -- lifting and carrying desks, tables, chairs, boxes and filing cabinets. You must be at least 18 years old. The shift is 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sign up through Hands On Greater Portland.
Monday, Jan. 21
• Assemble supplies for homeless children and the Vancouver School District. Washington State University hosts its annual Day of Service, featuring a keynote speaker, music, kids' activities (for children under 14) and hands-on service activities (for volunteers 14 and up) including assembling hygiene packs and sorting donated school supplies. Visit studentaffairs.vancouver.wsu.edu/student-diversity/mlk to register, or show up before 9:30 a.m. at the Firstenburg Student Commons, 14204 N.E. Salmon Creek Ave. The event will wrap up in early afternoon. Call 360-546-9568 for more information.
• Plant trees and preserve wetlands at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge has over 5,000 acres of marshes, grasslands and woodlands, and attracts wildlife and waterfowl of all sorts. Volunteers will plant and cage native willow in the Gee Creek area of the Carty Unit. The event will be rain or shine, so wear waterproof shoes and dress for the weather. Work will be 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Volunteers meet in the parking lot of the Carty Unit, 28908 North Main Ave., Ridgefield. Registration is encouraged but not required; go to Hands On Greater Portland, call 360-887-3883 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Plant trees and preserve wetlands in central Vancouver. The Vancouver Watershed Council will guide the planting of seedlings along the canyon shore of Burnt Bridge Creek; there may also be some clean-up and landscaping at nearby Fort Vancouver High School. Sign up through Hands On Greater Portland or directly through vancouverwatersheds.org/events. Volunteers meet at FVHS, 5700 E. 18th St. For more information, contact Emily at 360-852-9189 or email@example.com.
• Yank ivy and clean up Blandford Canyon. Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation continues its ongoing war on invasive species in central Vancouver. Shovels, pruners and loppers especially welcome. Work 9 a.m. to noon. Meet on the east side of Blandford Canyon at Dubois Park, Palo Alto Drive and California Way. Register with parkhero.org or call Hailey at 360-487-8316.
• Maintain the Waterfront Trail and begin building the outdoor "Look See Meadow" classroom at the Water Resources Education Center. Volunteers will meet at 9 a.m. at 4600 S.E. Columbia Way for a brief orientation (and morning treats). Tools will be distributed and volunteers will cut ivy and blackberry and work on the first phase of the new outdoor classroom. Register with parkhero.org, Bev Walker at 360-487-7114 or Hailey at 360-487-8316.
• Maintain the Foley Park Community Orchard in Felida. Remove blackberries and debris, mulch and prune. Foley Park is north of Northwest 119th Street on 21st Avenue, and parking is available at the nearby store at 1804 N.W. 119th St. Work is 9 a.m. to noon. Call Karen at 360-397-6118, ext. 1627.
• Clark College students can staff a half-day "minicamp" for kids from 11:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. at the Clark County Family YMCA, 11324 N.E. 51st Circle. About five students are needed in each of three sessions: a music class (noon–1 p.m.), a sports class (1–2 p.m.) and an art class (2–3 p.m.). Other volunteer opportunities may include taking photos, painting faces, making balloon animals, and other fun stuff for kids. All volunteers must complete a background check form and attend an orientation session before the event. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Volunteer & Service-Learning Program in Career Services (Gaiser Hall, room 108).
If, after all that, you're wanting some words of wisdom to wrap up your weekend, Clark College offers a keynote speaker: Darryl Brice, a sociologist who teaches topics including diversity and globalism at Highline Community College in Des Moines, near Seattle. Brice will speak at noon Jan. 22, in the Gaiser Student Center, 1933 Fort Vancouver Way.