"Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?" - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The value in living a life of service is one of the most important lessons comprising the rich legacy of the late Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., and it is the foundation on which the local planning committee has built its events of Sunday and Monday, Jan. 16 and 17, 2011 to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2011.
"We are joining the national observance of the MLK Day of Service that calls for all Americans to work together to benefit their community," said the current chair of The Wheeling Area Martin Luther King Celebration committee, Rob Kulpa, director of Student Life at Wheeling Jesuit University.
Meeting at Wheeling Jesuit recently the MLK committee finalizes its plans for 2011, from left seated, Marcia Allen, Rhonda West, Karyn Daniels, Christie Fontaine and Brenda Harris, standing, Austin Macri, Rob Kulpa, Becky Yesenczki, Jared Tice and Darrell Cummings. Several committee members were not present when this photo was taken. Anyone interested in joining the committee may contact Kulpa at 304-243-2210 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 2011 slate of local events and activities includes a special service Monday at noon at The Tree of Life Church in Martins Ferry to also honor the legacy of the late Pastor James Agnew Jr.
His son, Pastor James Agnew III, leads the congregation of the church at 801 Virginia St., in Martins Ferry.
The program, coordinated through the local organization, The Black Clergy Alliance, will include special reflections on the life of service led by the late Pastor James Agnew Jr. who died Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, 2010.
Agnew's widow, Lottie Agnew recently a prominent point noted the program for the pastor's service at the time of his passing reflected well of his life's work: "James served his generation."
A resident of Yorkville, he had led the Shiloh Temple congregation in Bridgeport for many years and found countless opportunities during his lifetime to be of service to others, in like fashion to that of the core of much of Dr. King's work.
The local effort to celebrate the life and legacy of the late Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. is joining the national movement of events being increasingly built on projects that are tightly fixed on opportunities of service to the community.
All events that are part of this two-day long celebration and service project are open to the public, according to WJU's Kulpa.
Martin Luther King Day became a national holiday in 1983, when Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law.
It is observed on the third Monday in January every year and many communities observe activities that honor King's life and service.
The local MLK program committee is also planning to have a stronger presence in the local area throughout the year, not just in connection with this traditional celebration," said Kulpa.
"We hope to have a table at several of the events held in downtown Wheeling so we can increase access to our committee. We welcome input and ideas from the public. We hope that by having a presence at other community events we will give people the opportunity to share their ideas with us in these more informal settings," said Kulpa, adding new volunteers are always welcome to contact him or any of the other committee members to express their interest.
The message at the heart of this expansion effort is the point: "Dr. King's roll in the civil rights movement, and the movement itself, did something positive for all of us."
"This year we are joining the national observance of MLK Day of Service that calls for all Americans to work together to benefit their community," said Kulpa. "The service project selected by the committee is to have volunteers working at the Wayman AME Church at 1136 Eoff St., Wheeling, on Monday, Jan. 17."
Work will largely be cleaning and maintenance chores, explained Kulpa, noting there is a very special reason this service project was chosen.
"This site was selected because it is one of the oldest churches in the area and will soon welcome the annual West Virginia AME conference. We are happy to help the congregation and community get ready for these guests," said the Rev. Marcia Allen.
Allen is a longtime member of the MLK committee and is interim director of Laughlin Chapel.
The tradition of the local committee organizing a commemorative march held on Sunday will be continued, but will have a single point of origin.
It will be followed by prayer and lunch at the Wheeling Jesuit University Chapel of Mary and Joseph, said Kulpa of events following the march in Wheeling.
The annual 1 p.m. Interfaith March for Peace along National Road begins on Bethany Pike, continues on National Road and Washington Avenue then ends at the Wheeling Jesuit chapel. This year the march begins at only one location, Temple Shalom on Bethany Pike.
Escorting the marchers will be the Laughlin Chapel Young Lions drum corps, an organization founded by the late Bishop Donald Pitts, a longtime MLK committee member who passed away in March 2009, said Kulpa.
Laughlin Chapel is located at 129-18th Street in Wheeling.
After the service, guests are invited to enjoy a lunch featuring traditional soul food available in Wheeling Jesuit's Benedum Room.
The meal is being prepared by Parkhurst Food Services at a cost of $4 per person. Parkhurst is donating part of the cost of the meal in.support of the MLK Day of Service.
At 4 p.m. Sunday, a special MLK service, organized by the Black Clergy Alliance and featuring Elder Eric Grey will be hosted at the Church of God & Saints of Christ, at 12th and Byron Streets, in Wheeling.
At 9 a.m. Monday, the annual children's breakfast will once again be held at West Virginia Northern Community College's Education Center in Wheeling.
Open to all, the children's breakfast is followed by children's programming at Laughlin Memorial Chapel.
The children will also enjoy a free lunch at Laughlin Chapel at noon.
This event is a great way for children who have not been involved in this program previously to make this positive connection, he said.
"Monday, the service project for adult participants takes place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.," said Kulpa. "Anyone wanting to volunteer to help with this service project should arrive at the Laughlin Chapel by 9 a.m.".
Those interested in volunteering or joining the committee may contact Kulpa at 304-243-2210 or via email at email@example.com. Those wanting to volunteer for the MLK Day of Service are also invited to call Laughlin Chapel in advance at 304-232-2630.
At 3 p.m. Monday, winners of the YWCA's annual MLK children's essay contest read their winning essays and are honored for their scholastic efforts.
This public program will be held this year at the Laughlin Chapel.
Two community members will also be named during the 3 p.m. program and honored with special awards: the annual Martin Luther King Award and the Rosa Parks Award.
The committee will also honor three deceased members of the committee for their work and vision for justice: Rabbi Daniel Lowy, Ron Mulholland and Bishop Pitts, said Kulpa.
Lowy was rabbi emeritus of Wheeling's Temple Shalom and died last fall. Mulholland was the longtime Youth Services System Inc. administrator who died in December 2009.
The MLK committee will also make a $500 donation to the newly designated Bishop Donald Pitts Scholarship, a college scholarship program it will be awarded to a student in the future, according to organizers.
In addition to Kulpa, committee members include: Carry Byrum, YWCA Wheeling; Rabbi Beth Jacowitz Chottiner, Temple Shalom; Karyn Daniels, YWCA; Pastor Darrell Cummings, Bethlehem Temple; Joelle Ennis, City of Wheeling; Christie Fontaine, Laughlin Chapel; Terri Garrett, Human Rights Commission; Brenda Harris, St. Paul AME Church; Cory Hickman, Youth Services System; Austin Macri, VISTA; the Rev. James O'Brien, S. J. WJU; George Smoulder, United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley; Jared R. Tice, WVNCC; Rhonda West, YWCA; Becky Yesenczki, WVNCC and Maureen Zambito, WJU.