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MLK honored with service day

Staff Photo: Crystal Tatum Christine Dixon, an 11th-grader at Alcovy High School, left, and Sidra Ashraf, a second-year student at Georgia Perimeter College, paint a giant map of America in the parking lot behind Cousins Community Center as part of MLK Jr. Day of Service.

Staff Photo: Crystal Tatum Christine Dixon, an 11th-grader at Alcovy High School, left, and Sidra Ashraf, a second-year student at Georgia Perimeter College, paint a giant map of America in the parking lot behind Cousins Community Center as part of MLK Jr. Day of Service.

COVINGTON -- About 50 civic-minded community members joined forces to participate in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Monday to honor the late civil rights leader.

Hands on Newton, a non-profit organization that links volunteers with projects, partnered with Georgia Perimeter College for two local service projects, with corporate support from Harland Clarke.

Around 40 volunteers prepared the Garden of Hope on Turner Lake Circle for spring planting. Crops grown there will be harvested to feed residents of the Garden of Gethsemane Homeless Shelter and donated to the Newton County Community Food Pantry and any other organizations in need, said Mollie Melvin, executive director of Hands on Newton.

Volunteers helped establish beds, moved topsoil and created a rain barrel at the site.

Tamela Mills brought her son Kanaan, 12, and Sam Guo, an exchange student from Beijing, China, who is staying with the Mills family.

"I think it's important for the kids to do community service and to grow up being familiar with that," Mills said.

Guo, 17, said he learned about Martin Luther King Jr. in history class.

"He was great ... he sacrificed himself for justice," Guo said.

Guo said he was happy to have the chance to volunteer and help prepare a garden, something he doesn't get the chance to do living in the big city.

A few miles away, several GPC students and their siblings spent their morning painting a large map of America onto the parking lot behind the Cousins Community Center, near Challenge Charter Academy.

The map will be used as an educational tool for students at the school and those who use the recreation facilities at the site, said Laura Bertram, director of Newton County Community Partnership, which includes Hands on Newton in its scope.

Bertram said the project is especially important since memorization of the states and their capitals is no longer a part of the Georgia school curriculum. The map will be a game/learning activity for students, who can guess the state and capital names and find the answers, along with information about each state, in a folder stored nearby. They can even play hopscotch on the map, Bertram said.

"It's no longer part of the curriculum, so we're making it a playground activity," Bertram said.

A template of the map is available for anyone who would like to do a similar project at a local school or other facility, Bertram said.

Also, Hands On Newton is seeking would-be volunteers to pair with worthy projects. For more information, call 770-330-7405.