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Ohio News Connection

From young students to business professionals, today, Ohioans from all walks of life will honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. by giving back to their communities.

This is the 25th anniversary of MLK Day as a National Day of Service, which encourages Americans to observe the holiday as “a day on, not a day off.” Hundreds of service projects are scheduled around the state. And Rebeccah Verhoff-Kiss, education and outreach officer with ServeOhio, said first-time volunteers are often inspired to continue serving others throughout the year.

“This is a great day to get involved in a touch point and to really celebrate Dr. King’s message of ‘Anybody can be great because anybody can serve,'” Verhoff-Kiss said. “And so, on MLK Day, it’s a real opportunity to be great.”

And because it sometimes takes money to make a difference, ServeOhio provides grants each year to select MLK Day service projects. Grants this year will support 10 projects and more than 2,200 volunteers in nine cities.

Thea DeRosa Cerra is managing director of development with City Year Cleveland, a nonprofit organization that helps students in nine area schools with academic and emotional skills. She said their MLK Day event at Franklin D. Roosevelt Academy will bring together 300 students and community volunteers.

“There’s always a lot of excitement from our student volunteers. We’re going to be doing a lot of projects that help beautify the school,” DeRosa Cerra said. “We’re also working closely with the Cleveland Book Bank on some literacy initiatives for the students we serve.”

Along with being part of organized volunteer events, Verhoff-Kiss encourages Ohioans look for small ways to help others.

“Pick up trash around their community, donate items to local shelters or maybe give money to a local organization. Anything to get more engaged, and to take care of others in their community, is a great way to get involved on MLK Day,” Verhoff-Kiss said.

Ohioans can search for local volunteer opportunities at the website MLKday.gov.

This story was produced in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the George Gund Foundation.