A local school is steadily growing its emphasis on celebrating seminal civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.

And this year is no exception.

“It’s always been something the university recognized, but having me in this role we can put more emphasis on what it’s about, not just getting a day off,” said Donald Anderson. “Because it’s not a day off, it’s a day on. That’s the slogan for MLK day – it’s not a day off, it’s a day on.”

Anderson is the multicultural programmer for Ottawa University. Anderson came to the office in 2016 after completing graduate studies at Ottawa University, and since has worked to grow OU’s commitment to King’s legacy through the “MLK Day of Service.”

Each year on MLK Day, volunteers from the school’s student population join Anderson in doing work in the region. This year’s “day on” mission: help Communities in Schools and the East Central Kansas Economic Opportunity Corporation (ECKAN)

“We are partnering with communities in schools at 10 o’clock, to provide grab bags for 150 high school and middle school students that don’t have food when they go home,” Anderson said. “And in the afternoon we partner with ECKAN to provide toiletry kits to send to soldiers overseas.”

The day has been dedicated to a variety of activities in years past, from MLK themed presentations at local nursing homes to working with the Ottawa Fire department to pass out smoke detectors.

Volunteer work isn’t the only thing OU’s multicultural department is up to, though; the school is partnering with the City of Ottawa for this year’s Annual Community Martin L. King Jr. Program, 2 pm Sunday at the Ottawa Memorial Auditorium, and naming a new scholarship in honor of the late activist.

“We are also doing our inaugural Dr. King scholarship,” Anderson said. “Two OU students will receive thousand dollar scholarships who are working in areas of either economic, social, racial, or environmental justice.”

After a lengthy application process, OU students Nicole Bry and Taiya Hickman will receive the scholarships, provided in partnership with OU alum Timothy Malone.

And, until inclement weather put the brakes on things, OU planned to host their inaugural MLK Volunteer Conference on Saturday. The event would have been a chance for Ripples of Change, the Life Care Center, ECKAN, and the Kansas Volunteer Council and others to explore avenues of community action.

“With these four activities, we’ve got a lot going on to try and build this and make it more of a meaningful holiday,” Anderson said. “[Dr. King] personally impacted me, with his message of nonviolence and perseverance through all that he had to go through, and never really seeing the fruits of his labor, being assassinated before he could even see it. I’m sure he would’ve hoped that we wouldn’t be at this point as a country this late in his life, but his voice is still as prevalent now as it was, when he said, ‘Life‘s most persistent question is, what are you doing for others?’”