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Community plans MLK Day observances for all ages

HUNTINGTON, IND - Since 2007, a Huntington group has been fostering racial reconciliation and understanding. Now, with support from city and county government, the Harmony Initiative Task Force is taking the lead in facilitating county-wide observances of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day on January 18.

Formed in 2007, the Harmony Initiative is an ad hoc group of local business leaders, elected officials, clergy, educators, and social-service workers advancing values of the City of Huntington's mission statement, which declares Huntington to be "a community of civility and inclusion, where diversity is honored and differences are respected." The group's efforts got a boost last fall, when both the City's Common Council and the Huntington County Council passed resolutions asking the Harmony Initiative Task Force to help coordinate the community's observances of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

"It has been exciting to see leaders from across our community come together to work on this project. Representatives from local churches, schools, businesses, and not-for-profit organizations have teamed up to plan events and activities," said Blair Dowden, president of Huntington University and chair of the Harmony Initiative.

Dowden added that planned events are widely varied and offer "something for everyone."

Huntington University will host a lecture at 11:30 a.m. by Lake County Superior Court Judge Calvin Hawkins. Hawkins is a 1967 graduate of Huntington University and a member of the Board of Trustees. The presentation is free and open to the public.

Joshua Canada, Learning Center intern, will present a workshop on community building for Huntington University students. Participants will be separated into groups and asked to build a community within a given locale and resources. The exercise will illustrate how communities form and how relationships between communities of different socioeconomic statuses form.

Huntington County Community Schools will be out of session on January 18, but school officials are encouraging teachers and students to look at the MLK holiday as "a day on, not a day off." Trace Hinesley, HCCSC director of special services, has developed a list of educational programs being offered by area libraries, preschools, and the Bookworm mobile library.

Three local libraries will have special reading activities on January 18. The Huntington City Township Public Library will have a program for students in grades 1 to 5 from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. featuring a book display, information about Martin Luther King Jr. and activities based on the book, My Name is Sangoel, the story of a young Sudanese refugee. Advance registration is suggested; call 260-356-2900. The Andrews Public Library invites students in grades K-5 to participate in special reading activities from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m., while the Warren Public Library will offer a similar story time from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m.

Kids Kampus also plans special activities on January 18 for pre-school and school-age children. Lessons will focus on the similarities and differences between people, showing them to be like puzzle pieces: "No matter who we are or where we come from, we all fit together."

The Huntington County school's Bookworm mobile library will make three special stops on January 18: 9:30 a.m. at the YMCA, 1:00 p.m. at the Boys & Girls Club, and 3:00 p.m. at Little Blessings Day Care. Books and activities related to the Dr. King's legacy will be available.

The Huntington County Boys and Girls Club has a full afternoon of activities planned. In addition to the afternoon visit from the Bookworm, there will be an "I Have A Dream" speech contest at 2:00 p.m. for teens and special activities for children ages 6-12. The movie, "Eyes on the Prize," will be shown at 3:00 p.m. A teen service project in the community will begin at 4:00 p.m.

Several local businesses are also getting involved. Our Sunday Visitor, United Technologies, and others have special employee activities planned for January 18. Some companies will show a video of Dr. King's moving speech, "I Have a Dream," followed by discussion.

With encouragement from the Harmony Initiative and the local ministerial association, local churches are also participating in events this year. For example, Faith Community Church of God will hold a youth event at 6:30 p.m. on January 17 that will involve an exploration of the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesse Brown, assistant dean of student development at Huntington University, will facilitate this discussion.

In addition, suggested Sunday School lesson plans have been sent to area churches. The activities were designed by Lancaster Elementary School teacher and College Park Church volunteer, Jeanne Paff. Three sets of age-appropriate lesson plans were created to remind students of the Bible's instructions for caring for others and to challenge them to show courage when following the example of Christ. The activities blend Biblical lessons with stories about Martin Luther King, Wilma Rudolf, Harriet Tubman, and others.

"It is greatly encouraging to see so many individuals from across our community coming together to reflect on the legacy of Dr. King," Dowden said. "I am grateful for the many hours that the Harmony Initiative Task Force members have spent in planning these events and helping to strengthen our community."

City of Huntington Indiana Mission Statement

As a progressive city, we are dedicated to providing an effective government for the citizens of Huntington. Offering excellent customer service while providing sound fiscal management. Balancing economic prosperity with the preservation of our neighborhoods and natural resources.

We recognize our citizens as our most valuable resource. We acknowledge the people who live and work in our city as our greatest assets. Their ethnic, economic, and religious diversity provides the strength that holds our community together.

The city of Huntington Indiana is a community of civility and inclusion, where diversity is honored and differences are respected.