Martin Luther King celebration to showcase community’s caring spirit

Published 9:56 am Thursday, January 7, 2010

PROCTORVILLE — ­It’s the spirit of reaching out to others that was embodied by the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that is the theme of this year’s January commemoration of the birth month of the famed civil rights leader.

The almost weeklong celebration begins with a brunch at Ohio University Southern-Proctorville Center on Tuesday at 11 a.m.

Keynote speaker will be Rebecca Dingus, research assistant for the Nick J. Rahall II Appalachian Transportation Institute and for the Center for Business and Economic Research at Marshall University.

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Most recently Dingus was a part of the Young Professionals Secret Santa project that brought Christmas to more than 400 children in Lawrence County.

The spirit of service exhibited by King is captured by the theme for this year’s event: “Revitalize, Rejuvenate, Recommit: Answering the call to do for others. … ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others.’ … Martin Luther King.”

“When I read that, it was striking,” Stephanie Burcham, director of the Proctorville Center, said. “I was so impressed with what the Young Professionals had done. I often get inquiries from students who are looking for outlets to better the community. I thought Rebecca Dingus would be an ideal person.”

The Young Professionals began this past fall as an arm of the Greater Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce and the first project it took on was rescuing the county’s Secret Santa program.

“They knew there was a need and they had the right attitude,” Burcham said. “As you listen to Rebecca, you see they made a difference, but it also changed their lives.”

On Wednesday there will be a Brown Bag Concert featuring Wheelersburg High School Chorus at noon at the main rotunda of Ohio University Southern in Ironton and a panel discussion on the impact of poverty in southeastern Ohio starting at 3:30 p.m. at the Bowman Auditorium at OUS.

Appearing on the panel will be Elaine Payne, of the domestic violence task force, Gene Myers, director of the Job and Family Services and Dr. Jim Payne, director of the county’s educational service center.

On Monday, Jan. 18, for the nationally celebrated Martin Luther King Day there will be the traditional community commemoration starting at 6 p.m. at the main rotunda at OUS.

“The brunch is a new event we are hosting at Proctorville Center which will become an annual event,” Robert Pleasant, OUS coordinator of diversity and multiculturalism, said. “(On the other events ) what we are trying to do is to get the entire community involved and we want to actually discuss issues and find ways to improve our community. When we look at Dr. King’s quote, what we really want to focus on is our community, how we give back to the community.”