Athens County will be hosting two service projects in Athens on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in order to honor his life and improve communities.

On Monday, Jan. 18, a total of 27 volunteers will be completing two service projects in Athens County – one project will be constructing “blessing boxes” and the other project plans to distribute “Seeds of Change” kits, a release states.

Women for Recovery, in partnership with the COMCorps AmeriCorps program, will be constructing blessing boxes to fill with food and other essentials to place throughout Athens County.

Casey Starcher, COMCorps wellness coordinator, said the purpose of the boxes is to help those in parts of the county have easy access to food or supplies. She said while the City of Athens may be able to handle food insecurity, other parts of the county are not as fortunate.

“Athens proper is pretty well equipped to handle food insecurity,” Starcher said. “The rest of the county doesn’t have a lot of resources like that and people are extra blocked off from all sorts of things right now.”

Women for Recovery and COMCorp will be constructing the boxes with plywood frames on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and will be raised in Athens County communities like Buchtel, Chauncey and Jacksonville.

The volunteers will stock the blessing boxes initially, but the hope is that the community will take over and supply the boxes themselves. Starcher said they are also reaching out to local organizations to see if they would sponsor boxes in their communities.

Starcher said this outreach works towards King’s dream of a “beloved community.”

“Athens county is so strong community-wise because we look out for each other and take care of each other,” Starcher said.

According to The King Institute, the “beloved community is a global vision in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the beloved community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it.”

The Community Food Initiative, in partnership with the COMCorps AmeriCorps program will be assembling and distributing “Seeds of Change” kits, which includes a pamphlet about Martin Luther King Jr., locally grown popcorn, locally produced chips and salsa, recipe cards, and gardening instructions.

The kits will be distributed to residents in the Hope Drive housing development, the release states.

Molly Gassaway, director of garden programming at Community Food Initiatives, said the organization typically offers an in-person showing of a Martin Luther King Jr. movie and snacks, but because of COVID-19, Gassaway said CFI is offering Hope Drive residents a movie night at home.

The Seeds of Change kits will also include links to watch MLK Day themed movies.

“Due to COVID this is a way to still offer snacks and a movie in the safety of their own home,” Gassaway said.

The two projects are coming as part of a larger statewide program spearheaded by ServeOhio, a governor-appointed commission focused on service and volunteerism, a release states.

The commission selected and provided grants to 10 Martin Luther King Jr. Day service projects across the state, the press release states. Each grant totals between $600 and $2,000.

“We are proud to support projects like these that have a lasting impact and remind us all that Dr. King’s legacy of service continues to live on,” William Hall, ServeOhio executive director said in a release.

All grantees have safety procedures in place and are following recommendations from the Ohio Department of Health to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

According to the release, each project commits to bringing volunteers together to create or improve community assets or infrastructure and supports local community engagement and impact. Additionally, every project includes an education component based on Dr. King’s message of peace, unity, and service to create long-term, sustainable change.

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