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PORTLAND -- More than a thousand people gave up part of their holiday time to volunteer and serve the community around the greater Portland area Monday, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
In East Portland, songs of praise range out at the New Beginnings church. It was part of a day-long celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., attended by hundreds. It was a diverse gathering which is why the lead pastor was so pleased it was in his building.
“MLK is so special to us because we're a church that embraces all the different cultures and diversity and that's been our dream, to build a church that looks like heaven,” said Brad Makowski.
Throughout the day, all were reminded to do something to make the community better for all. “It is not just a day of rest but a day of remembrance and a day of action,” said Lisa McCall as she attended the event.
More than 600 volunteers took that message to heart when they gathered at the Oregon Food Bank. Their efforts helped the ongoing struggle to feed 270,000 hungry people each month. “The need is great, hunger is definitely an income and poverty kind of issue and we're continuing to see the gap between the people in need widening," said Arnie Gardner, Chairman of the Board.
At Vernon Elementary in Northeast Portland, Kaiser Permanente workers helped spruce up the school. The health care company had 500 people serving around the area. "The school districts all over the State of Oregon are challenged and anything we can do to volunteer helps alleviate some of the budget concerns in the school system and we're glad to do it," said Rich Smith, Vice President of Human Resources for Kaiser.
At the Boys and Girls Club in Northeast Portland, dozens of college students worked to patch and repair children’s books. They're part of an effort by more than a thousand students. “A lot of people don’t have books to read, even food to eat sometimes and a house to live in. And I think it’s important that we all contribute to that, to help make it a better place,” said Kemea Smith, a Portland State University student.
They fixed thousands of books for children. “To truly remember him I think you have to get out and do something about it. And I think this opportunity is perfect for that,” said 18-year-old Jay Cornwell, a George Fox University student.
Dr. King would be proud.
“He would be proud. He would be proud that his image is not being used just for like, the black community. It’s being used for like, service," said Austin Oneal, also a George Fox University student.
That service extended to the sidewalks near Jeld Wen field where Kirsten Klym and Don Baldwin, both members of the Timbers Army, brought their kids to pick up trash. “They were really excited to do it actually. It makes them feel good to be able to contribute something," Klym said.
A hopeful thought on a day of celebration for what would have been Dr. King’s 84th birthday.