While Martin Luther King Day means a day off from work or school, many Iowans will use that time to volunteer, as several organizations are launching service projects today. A state agency is helping some of those groups. Jody Benz, with Volunteer Iowa, says it’s part of a national effort to encourage people to give back to their communities.  “When we collectively, across the country, do lots of projects on one day, it just has such a huge impact,” Benz says. “For example, if the food banks are doing some kind of donation drive, they may collect enough food to last them through the next month or two.”

Benz says many Iowa organizations see this day as an opportunity to accomplish more for their communities.  “It’s just an awareness that during a day of service, an organization can bring in additional volunteers who wouldn’t normally volunteer for them,” Benz says. “It’s a way for them to recruit new volunteers and kind of introduce their organizations and the services they provide to the community.”

Some projects today will help educate the public about Martin Luther King Junior. Others include packaging food for Meals from the Heartland or running coat drives for homeless shelters.