By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Inside U.S. Bank Stadium, groups of families, co-workers, classmates and friends gathered to pack bags and school supplies for Kids in Need Minnesota.

It was an event organized by Hands On Twin Cities to encourage a Day of Service on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

“Why wouldn’t you,” asked Ngozi Abakporo. “Why wouldn’t you say, hey I’m grateful for what the others came before me did.”

Each of the groups there said they came to honor Dr. King, but they all had different reasons for wanting to volunteer their time and energy on this particular day.

From making it a resolution to volunteer more this year or teaching children kindness, hundreds showed up to help.

“If you do something for someone and they smile, you feel that happiness in your heart,” said 13-year-old volunteer Ijeoma Abakporo.

After taking a dip over the last decade, the rate of Americans reporting volunteering is back up, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service.

In 2017, 30% of Americans reported volunteering through an organization, 43% say they helped friends and family, while 51% reported doing favors for their neighbors.

On average, volunteers put in 52 hours, most often with religious organizations followed by youth and education.

Minneapolis/St. Paul leads the way with 46% of people saying they volunteer. That’s followed closely by Rochester, NY, Salt Lake City and Milwaukee.

“A lot of people relax or have a three-day weekend,” said volunteer Kat Larson. “It’s nice when you have a little bit of extra time, it’s nice to time to someone who would benefit from that.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day became a federal holiday in 1986. Eight years later, it officially become a Day of Service, signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

For more information on places that connect volunteers with organizations, contact, Hands On Twin Cities,  Doing Good Together, Greater Twin Cities United Way or Volunteer Match.

Heather Brown