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Hundreds pack park for Martin Luther King Day of Service

Locals remember Civil Rights leader with day of hard work, tree planting.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Jessica Borg plants the start of a native plant during an MLK Day volunteer effort at Ibach Park in Tualatin.Armed with gloves, shovels and a can-do attitude, the 200 people at Ibach Park on Monday separated into groups.

They were ready to get their hands dirty.

Hundreds of people did their part on Monday, planting trees in Tualatin and King City, in celebration of the birth of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

King, who protested racial discrimination in America until his murder in 1968, would have turned 87 this week.

King’s birthday has become a day to not only reflect on civil rights, but to help your community, as well.

Since 1994, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day has been recognized as a national day of service, encouraging local people to get out and do something to make their communities better.

Heather Durham, a green space specialist with Friends of Trees, which organized Monday's planting, said about 200 people came out to Tualatin’s tree planting on Monday. Similar numbers were reported at a Friends of Trees planting event at King City Community Park.

“We get everyone from Girl Scout troops, to awesome key clubs and volunteer groups and corporate groups, too,” Durham said.

At Ibach Park, volunteers helped plant more than 1,200 trees, bushes and shrubs to help combat erosion and beautify the area.

“You can do this 365 days a year, but on a day like today it’s nice to give back,” said volunteer Jeff Sturges, who planted trees with his two children, Annika, 14 and Zac, 11. “As my kids got older, we realized that this is a time that we can give back. This is our state, this is our planet. It doesn’t matter where we go to serve as long as we do something.”

For years, the Sturges family has been making sure to get outside on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and do their part.

“It’s tradition,” Zac said. “We always come out.”

The Sturges’ listened to one of King’s speeches on their way to Ibach Park on Monday morning, Jeff said. That helped to get the family in the right frame of mind.

“Dr. King gave his time and his life to the cause of trying to make the world a better place by working together,” Jeff Sturges said. “However you can serve and give back is great, and that’s what we’re doing. Plus it’s just fun to get outside and spend the day trying to give back.”

The Tualatin planting is part of a series of regular tree plantings across the city, said Jackie Konen, Tualatin’s volunteer coordinator.

GEOFF PURSINGER - Hundreds pack Ibach Park in Tualatin for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. The national celebration included tree plantings in King City and Tualatin.Called “Put Down Roots in Tualatin,” the city-run program plants about 10,000 trees and shrubs each year around the city.

The city has partnered with Friends of Trees for more than a decade to organize the plantings, Konen said.

“It’s just grown and grown,” she said. “My first event we had 23 people show up. Now we average 80 and 100 every time. It’s huge.”

Konen said that this time of year she likes to reflect back to King’s own words:

“Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

By Geoff Pursinger
Assistant Editor, The Times
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