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MLK Day of Service brings community together

First-year Joliet Junior College student Eric Diaz said though he doesn’t have any classes to attend on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, knowing he has the opportunity to serve the community is a good way to spend the day.

“I think it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “You learn so much from each other especially from people who want to better themselves. There’s nothing better than that.”

Students, community leaders and other individuals in the Joliet area came together to serve on Jan. 16 on the anniversary marking the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

R. Dale Evans, an event coordinator for MLK Day of Service, said bringing the community together on this federal holiday is important.

“We’ll be one of thousands of cities honoring MLK through service,” Evans said. “We think it’s important for the people to come together for the good of the community.”

This year, Evans said the goal is to bring in 1,000 volunteers to engage in 50 projects to rack up 4,000 hours of service.

Joliet Junior College, like many educational institutions across the country, closed their campus in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Amy Sims, JJC student activities coordinator, said having students come together for a day on, not a day off is a message the college hopes will resonate.

“The purpose as a higher education institution is to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy,” she said. “This is a time of social unrest. We look at this as a way to bring people together. It’s important to have conversations that Martin Luther King started long ago.”

Diaz said seeing that prominent community leaders and others who want to make a difference gathered in honor of Dr. King’s message was a sight to see.

“I think it’s great to see our city wanting to be improved [by] likeminded people,” he said. “Everybody’s wanting to get together to help.”

Each year, the college sends between 15 and 20 students who are willing to serve at the Joliet Hope Center.

Minooka High School senior Hannah Dilday was packing food for those in need with JJC students. She said honoring Dr. King’s message means a lot to her.

“It makes me feel better knowing that I can make some sort of a difference, even if it’s something small,” Dilday said.

Dilday comes out to serve in the MLK Day of Service annually.

Dilday said the holiday serves as a reminder that further work to promote equality is necessary. Community youth don’t always feel as connected to the message conveyed by Dr. King in today’s world, she said.

“In some ways, it kind of just depends on the person,” Dilday said. “There are people—like everyone here is—embracing that message. But there are also people that are against it.”

Other service projects carried out in the community included Joliet Park District nature trail cleanups and window cleanings.

“Our goal has always been to expose the people to different social service organizations,” Evans said.

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