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In honor of the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., local banks, schools, libraries, government offices and post offices will be closed today.

But for more than 300 members of the Oregon State University community, this was not a long weekend off — instead they dedicated Saturday to doing community service at more than a dozen sites around Linn and Benton counties through the university’s MLK Jr. Day of Service.

Jessie Li, a senior in bio-health sciences and psychology who is in her third year of organizing the day of service, said the university’s Center for Civic Engagement organizes two days of service each term, but the one on the weekend of MLK Jr. Day is always the biggest.

“It’s a good way to remember MLK and continue his mission of service,” she said.

She added that the goal organizers have is to inspire students to continue to volunteer in the community.

“Days like this we really need to come together and remember our common humanity,” she said.

Kyler Grandkoski, the manager of the Starker Arts Garden for Education, hosted around 30 volunteers Saturday.

Grandkoski said having a large group of volunteers is helpful because there are still many winter maintenance chores at the garden, which supplies local food banks with fresh produce. And the timing is good, he said, because the winter months typically bring a downturn in the number of garden volunteers.

“Thirty volunteers in one day can do what I could do by myself in a month,” he said.

Other sites included the Family Tree Relief Nursery, Linn Benton Food Share, MLK Park in Corvallis and the ABC House.

Monika Hoke, a senior in chemical engineering, was part of a group of students from the Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering Club who worked at the SAGE garden Saturday. She said the club’s officers decided to attend as a group as a kind of leadership retreat.

She added that it was also a way for the students to connect with the community outside the university.

“I don’t think that there is a better way to honor MLK Jr. than to serve your community,” she said.

Marisa Thierheimer, also a senior in chemical engineering and with the Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering Club, said she appreciates the chance to reflect on the life and legacy of MLK Jr.

“It’s important that OSU gives us the day to honor him,” she said.

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Anthony Rimel covers weekend events, education, courts and crime and can be reached at anthony.rimel@lee.net, 541-758-9526, or via Twitter @anthonyrimel.

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