Families honor MLK with Day of Service

By Anna Carrera

Published 01/20 2014 05:40PM

Updated 01/21 2014 10:02AM

URBANA -- Many people around Central Illinois spent their day off building up the community. They say this is how they're honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. His legacy lives on through all the service.

For many, it was a day away from the regular rigors of school and work. But some people stayed pretty busy. Jessica Simpson, who lives in Urbana, says she tries to lead by example.

"To take time out of your busy schedule to give back to someone else," said Simpson.

Her family's way of doing that was building Ben's Bells. When they're done, the chimes will be hung up around the city to remind people to be kind.

"I love this community and I want to be a part of making it stronger," said Simpson.

"We've been trying to get the kids more involved as they get older," said Ryan Larsen, who lives in Urbana.

More volunteers filled bags with a pound of rice, making portions to feed people with the Wesley Evening Food Pantry.

"It's not just a holiday," said Larsen. "It's supposed to be a chance to come together, do some work and make a small difference."

Instead of just staying home, some Urbana High students were tying blankets. They'll be gifts for girls their own age who have kids of their own. As they work, volunteers reflect on what this day really means.

"It means systematic change," said Simpson. "It means strengthening your community and broadening the opportunities for everyone."

"I'm white. She's black. It doesn't matter," said Jackie Sparnicht, who is a junior at Urbana High. "We don't look at each other based on our color. We just look at each other as our friends and our people."

All of those activities were at the Urbana Civic Center on Monday afternoon. Volunteers also made valentines for veterans and decorated posters for next year's event.

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