Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  What does it mean to you?

In many places, Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday means a reprieve from school and work in lieu of a day dedicated to community service and contemplating King's legacy.  While that's true for some in the Gallatin Valley, it is not true for all.  But that doesn't mean the holiday is lost on local residents.

Community members of all ages and ethnicities Sunday afternoon attended the 10th annual Martin Luther King Day Celebration, held this year in the Willson School gym.

Homage was paid to King in many ways throughout the afternoon. His speeches were played in their entireties, the group participated in a commemorative march around the gym and several speakers, including Rabbi Ed Stafman of Congregation Beth Shalom and the Rev. Philip Arthur Zemke of Unity of Bozeman church, paid tribute to King.

"This is an effort to honor Dr. King and make it pertinent to our community," said Ruth Forrest, one of the event's many organizers. "It's especially great to see all the kids here today."

The event was about commemorating King's birth and the great strides in equality and diversity that have taken place since his death.

But it was also about community service and education -- a concept envisioned by King's widow, Coretta Scott King, founder of The King Foundation. In that spirit, local nonprofit groups set up informational booths where people could learn about services available and volunteer opportunities.

"Through this event we hope to make community service a part of (people's) everyday life," Forrest said.

Jan "Profe" Krieger and his group of middle school students, members of the 1,000,000 Ways to Make a Difference Club, were a driving force at the event. They performed jazz music, attended to guests and spread their youthful enthusiasm for helping out their community.

"I just love volunteering," said Bozeman High School freshman Katherine Budeski, who was in the 1,000,000 Ways Club in middle school and still helps with the club whenever she can.

The club makes weekly trips to the Gallatin Valley Food Bank and volunteers at Eagle Mount, among many other activities.

"I still go to the Food Bank every other week to help out," she said. "I want to stay involved and pass the love of volunteering onto others and show them how much fun you can have with it."

Other people looking for ways to lend a hand in the community had plenty of options to choose from.

The Red Cross was looking for volunteers. The up-and-coming Gallatin Community Radio was promoting its arrival on the scene, looking for writers, producers and people with a desire to build the Gallatin Valley-centered public broadcast.

And the MSU Muslim Student Association was inviting people to join the second Fast-A-Thon on Jan. 24, a benefit for the Gallatin Valley Food Bank. Last year the daylong fast from water and food attracted more than 220 people.

"The idea is to get people aware of the different organizations within Gallatin Valley," Krieger said. "Hopefully people will feel the desire to participate. Something here should jump out at everybody.

"That's the spirit of community service -- asking, ‘How can I make a difference?'" he said.

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