No plans for your MLK holiday? Spend it serving.

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CommunityOutreach17Jan2011-21_0

Students work on a humanitarian project in the Wilkinson Center on Community Outreach Day in 2011. (Photo courtesy of BYU Center for Service and Learning)

This Martin Luther King, Jr. Day the Utah Valley community will unite in service to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy of honoring the worth of every individual. Student leaders from BYU and UVU have joined forces to organize Community Outreach Day, a massive community service effort held annually on the holiday.

“The event is set up to help everyone equally,” said Casey Peterson, director of BYU’s Center for Service and Learning and keynote speaker at this year’s event. “The day offers help to people of different races, cultures, disabilities, income backgrounds, etc. We see service as a vehicle for treating everybody with respect.”

Anyone from the community is welcome to participate by showing up to the Wilkinson Center on BYU campus Monday morning and signing up to participate in a service project Monday afternoon. Booths will be set up detailing each project.

“You really can just shop for service,” said Bethany Cherry, one of the BYU student program directors in charge of the event. “There’s something for everyone.”

The event partners with various community organizations like Head Start, Habitat for Humanity and Deseret Industries to fill community needs. There are service opportunities available on and off campus, including kid-friendly activities like making Valentine’s Day decorations for RAH!, a local recreation facility for people with disabilities. Transportation to and from projects will be provided.

“Two years ago, I attended Community Outreach Day and participated in a project where we decorated lunch boxes for Hospice,” said Rhett Ahlander, a junior studying public relations and digital media at UVU. “I also participated in the blood drive they had there.”

After that, Ahlander was hooked. He is now one of the event organizers and serves as student coordinator on UVU’s service council.

“As a college student, it’s really easy to just get wrapped up in your little hub,” Cherry said. “I love that this event draws us out. We’re serving the community with the community.”

Peterson hopes the event will give both college students and community members exposure to how many service opportunities there are in the county.

“People are busy,” he said. “It’s easy to fail to recognize how many venues there are to serve in throughout the year.”

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Samantha Strong Murphey is a lover of greenery, glitter and goat cheese, an advocate of media literacy, human rights and karaoke for all. She earned bachelor's degree in communications from Brigham Young University and is a former writer and editor at Utah Valley Magazine. Now, she works as a full-time freelance writer and blogger based in Atlanta, Georgia.

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