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"Make a career of humanity...and you will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of the country and a finer world to live in."

- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

History of New York State Community Initiatives

In 1997, the NYS Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Memorial Observance created the Community Service Initiative to remember and honor Dr. King not just on one day, but every day of the year.

The 1998 King Community Service Initiative urged New Yorkers to reach into their communities, open their hearts and offer their hands to feed the hungry, house the homeless, care for those with debilitating diseases, stop violence, join the battle against crime and drugs, help youth at risk, and promote interracial cooperation, justice and peace. By doing so, we change the way we think about ourselves and others, not just for one day, but for a lifetime.

Each New York Celebration has urged communities and individuals to remember and honor Dr. King. The philosophy reflects his proposition that "everybody can be great because anybody can serve."


Dr. King Statewide Canned Food Drive

In keeping with Dr. King's  legacy, this year will mark the 15th anniversary of the community service initiative, the Dr. King Statewide Canned Food Drive.  New York State Agencies and several community-based organizations helped to collect over 431,082 pounds of food and $81,650.07 in monetary donations . Donations were collected and distributed in every region of the State; from the major urban areas of New York City, Albany, and Buffalo, to the rural towns of Sherburne, Ogdensburg, and South Kortright. The food drive is co-sponsored by the Hunger Action Network and the New York State Food Bank Federation. It will be held from December 16th, 2014 to January 16th, 2015.

Drop off locations in the lobby of:

  • Empire State Plaza - Albany
  • Donovan State Office Building-Buffalo
  • The Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building – New York City

On Monday, January 19th, at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Observance, we will provide you with an additional opportunity to contribute to this worthy cause. We hope that you will join us in making a difference, because as Dr. King said, "No one’s plate should be empty."


16th Annual Empire State Dr. King Essay and Fine Arts Display
(click flyer to enlarge)


During the King Holiday Observance, come and view the Empire State Dr. King Essay and Fine Arts Display. The exhibit will be displayed during the Dr. Martin Luther King Holiday Observance on January 19, 2015.

Each year, students are invited to submit essays and artwork based on Dr. King's 6 Principles of Nonviolence. The students could choose from a few different categories such as painting, drawing, sculpting and photography. At last year's Observance, more than 4,000 pieces, representing entries from 240 schools statewide were submitted and displayed.

The concept of the display is:

  • To encourage students to learn more about Dr. King, his nonviolent philosophy and its application to current issues.
  • To introduce students to the concept and methodology of Dr. King's "Six Principles and Steps of Nonviolence."
  • To encourage students to examine current concerns and offer creative solutions using nonviolent means.
  • To encourage the development and utilization of creative skills in the arts as a means of illustrating change.
  • To empower students to pursue change through nonviolent methods.

All entries are due December 1st, 2014


Dr. King Statewide Children's Literacy Drive

The MLK Literacy Initiative collects new books for distribution to elementary, middle, high schools and after school programs through out the state. The program continues to grow beyond expectations each year. Children can unlock their true potential by embracing the power of the written word by reading, thanks to the generosity of numerous state agencies throughout the state. Since inception, the Literacy Drive has collected and distributed over 311,000 books on behalf of Dr. King that have enhanced education efforts for children through reading.

These are the regions and dates for the 2014 Drive:

  • Albany Region: January 21 through March 13
  • Buffalo Region: January 21 through February 13
  • New York City: January 21 through February 13

Empire State King Quilts
(click on images to enlarge)


During the 1999 New York State King Holiday Memorial Observance, the Empire State King Quilts were unveiled for all to enjoy. The six King Quilts were created as a special tribute to the life and legacy of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The concept for the quilt came about with these thoughts in mind: that a community is a blend of ideas of men, women and children from diverse backgrounds woven together like threads in a colorful tapestry.

Come view the quilts during the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Observance on Monday, January 19, 2015. They will be displayed on the walls of the Empire State Plaza Convention Center during the event.


Dr. King Career Fair

The New York State Department of Labor, with conjunction with the Office of General Services on April 16th, 2015, at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany, New York.

Throughout the day, Career Workshops covering topics such as resume writing, interviewing techniques and job search strategies will be held.

Free and open to the public.

"Be A King" Volunteer Fair

The New York State Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Volunteer Fair will be part of the King Memorial Observance.

The Fair will consist of over 30 non-profit, community based organizations from across the State. Booths will be set up at the base of the Convention Center during the King Ceremony to encourage people to learn about their organizations and volunteer efforts. Attendees who wish to volunteer with a charitable organization are encouraged to fill out the King Volunteer Pledge Cards.

The purpose of the Volunteer Fair is to introduce people to ways they can become actively involved in civic and community programs. The greatest tribute we can bestow upon the memory of the beloved Dr. King is to invite people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds to celebrate this special holiday held in his honor by performing individual acts of kindness through service to others.

“Life’s most urgent question is: what are you doing for others”
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Download Pledge Card (in PDF format)

If you click on the above link and get an error message or the page doesn't load, you will need to install the Adobe Acrobat Reader. Click on the button to get the Reader. You will then be able to view and print.


New York State Dr. King Employee Honor Roll

The Governor has encouraged all State residents to observe the King Holiday by performing community service on a voluntary basis in tribute to the life and legacy of Dr. King. As a way of thanking State Employees, who have embraced his principles by volunteering or performing some service to the benefit of their surrounding communities, the State has compiled an Honor Roll in recognition of their efforts. Those individuals' names can be seen on the TV monitors located outside the Convention Center during the King Memorial Observance. In addition to the scrolling of the employees' names on the TV monitors on the day of the Observance, each receives an Honor Roll Booklet listing their names.