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Ohioans volunteering in today's Day of Service

The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. serves as an inspiration.
soup kitchen volunteering
Volunteering at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter is one way to honor Dr. King's legacy of service.

COLUMBUS — In the midst of challenging times, volunteers throughout Ohio are showing their commitment to improving their communities.

For the Martin Luther King Day of Service today, hundreds of people are taking part in dozens of projects intended to honor the late civil rights leader.

Rebecca Verhoff-Kiss, outreach and education officer for the group Serve Ohio said the idea is to make the holiday a "Day On, Not a Day Off."

"Dr. King's legacy around service is just an inspiration," Verhoff-Kiss said. "And so, he said that anybody can be great because anyone can serve.

"And he also said that life's most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?"

Serve Ohio is sponsoring 10 organizations, which are enlisting the help of more than 300 people to complete projects in celebration of MLK day.

And each project features an education component based on Dr. King's message of peace, unity and service to create long-term, sustainable change.

Verhoff-Kiss said all the projects have safety protocols in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. And some are specifically responding to a few of the needs created by the pandemic.

For example, she noted, volunteers in Athens are building "blessing boxes."

"These are boxes that they're going to put in high-needs areas in Athens that community members can stock with food and other types of items that families might need, to help folks who just need a little bit more to get by between paychecks," Verhoff-Kiss said.

Verhoff-Kiss added Ohioans also are encouraged to make a pledge to serve their community throughout the year. Serve Ohio has four different grant opportunities for groups and organizations.

"MLK Day is the first one each year," Verhoff-Kiss said. "We also fund the projects for 'Global Youth Service Day,' which happens in April. We have a 'Serve Ohio Day' in June, and we fund projects for 'Make a Difference Day' in October."

Reporting by Ohio News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the George Gund Foundation.

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