Gloria Alafe of Newton High School sorts the food donations collected for the Willing Helpers Food Pantry during the Hands On Newton and Newton High School Rams United group’s MLK Day of Service. (Staff photo: Jessicah Peters)

Gloria Alafe of Newton High School sorts the food donations collected for the Willing Helpers Food Pantry during the Hands On Newton and Newton High School Rams United group’s MLK Day of Service. (Staff photo: Jessicah Peters)

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Newton High School student Kitana Woodruff secures balloons, which have the volunteers’ thoughts about Martin Luther King Jr. and their own dreams, to a chair. To conclude the service day, volunteers released the balloons. (Staff photo: Jessicah Peters)

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South Salem Elementary third-grader Fatimah Cammon cuts out a picture of a trophy so she can make a page in a “lapsit” book, which will help adults and children read together. (Staff photo: Jessicah Peters)

COVINGTON — From elementary students to high-schoolers and adults, a group of 45 to 50 volunteers gathered at Solid Rock Baptist Church for a day dedicated to serving the community.

Hands On Newton and Newton High School Rams United group gathered food donations for Willing Helpers Food Pantry and winter clothes for those in need on Monday as a way to continue the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

But the volunteers didn’t just gather food and clothes. Elementary students around Newton County were busy cutting pictures from magazines in order to create “lap-sit books.”

Hands On Newton Director Mollie Melvin said the books will be used through the free little libraries program as a way to promote intergenerational reading.

“The children cut out things like tennis rackets or trophies and write the word underneath so we can create books that will help other children learn simple words,” said April Bowman, one of the volunteers at the MLK Day of Service.

Newton High School students were in charge of conducting oral history interviews to capture and preserve stories of Newton County’s civil rights history.

Melvin said Hands On Newton has organized a “day of service” since 2007 in order to put the “hands on” model in action.

The projects have ranged from planting community gardens to roadside clean-ups.

To end the MLK Day of Service, the volunteers participated in a balloon release.

“Everyone had the opportunity to relay their feelings about Martin Luther King Jr. and write their own dreams on a balloon. This is event is led by the students, it’s their project and I just help them make it happen,” Melvin said.