Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated across the nation as "A Day On, Not a Day Off!"
The slogan is a rallying cry that unites the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency tasked with leading AmeriCorps and MLK Day outreach, with Sacramento groups honoring the civil rights leader this weekend.
About 800 volunteers are expected to participate in 15 MLK Weekend of Service projects organized by Hands On Sacramento, the local volunteer coordination organization, program associate Julianna Vignalats said.
Volunteer opportunities include cleaning city parks, creating art in Roseville and sprucing up the Placer Nature Center in Auburn.
The Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday marking the civil rights leader's birthday was first observed in 1983 and is celebrated on the third Monday of January each year.
Congress designated it the only national day of service in 1994, according to Clayborne Carson, director of Stanford's Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute.
"I don't think Martin Luther King would want people to take a day off rather than do something to make the world a better place," he said. Volunteer work and Martin Luther King Jr. Day have been linked since, he said.
Vignalats said Hands On Sacramento has recognized Martin Luther King Jr. Day as one of its annual special events for about seven years.
"Monday is the national day of service, but we extended it here in Sacramento to do a three-day weekend," Vignalats said.
Hands On Sacramento selected its 15 "Weekend of Service" projects from proposals sent from its nonprofit partner organizations in the region, Vignalats said. The city of Sacramento is also coordinating its weekend volunteer projects through Hands On Sacramento, she said.
"This is our biggest service weekend of the year," said Vignalats, who added that many of the volunteer spots for this weekend's events have been filled. "We don't want people to just come out on Martin Luther King Day and be done for the year."
Hands On Sacramento is launching a "40 Days of Peace" campaign to remind its Sacramento volunteers to continue the community service enthusiasm after the holiday, Vignalats said.
Volunteers attending Hands On Sacramento events throughout the weekend will commit to future service acts by writing postcards that will be sent to their home addresses two weeks later, she said.
"You can always set up soup kitchens to help the poor, but it would be more meaningful to eliminate poverty," Carson said.
For details and sign-ups for all 15 Hands On Sacramento projects, go to www.handsonsacto.org.