It's one of the largest MLK celebrations in the country and it drew thousands to St. Petersburg Monday. Everything from marching bands, to floats, to law enforcement parading through downtown, all to honor the slain civil right leader.
This was not just a day for celebrating and enjoying a shortened work week, but also for spending time after the parades, giving back with a, 'Day Of Service'.
They made a joyful noise to start the day and shared some hugs along the way, and instead of devoting the rest of their MLK holiday to a large street party, thousands put their energies into community service projects.
"A lot of these kids don't understand, they know Martin Luther King from a parade," said Watson Haynes with the Urban League.
Even as he got into a convertible and got ready for his own spot in the parade, he couldn't help but reflect on the rest of the day.
"It celebrates Dr. King. But what we also have to do now, is move beyond the celebration to some action and what we're doing with a, 'Day Of Service', is action beyond the celebration," said Watson Haynes with the Urban League.
State Representative Darryl Rouson was able to secure $100,000, enough to help a good 50 to 60 projects.
"We were only able to give away $100,000 in grant money, but that caused 56 different churches, organizations, schools to go out and do public service. And what greater way to honor the man who gave us the ultimate sacrifice, his life for service of others," said Rouson. "We are a multi-tasking society and people! And there's nothing wrong with both ways of honoring the man. Yes, let's celebrate him, let's celebrate the man's life, but let's also honor his legacy."
All of the money raised went toward materials for all of the Day Of Service projects, like the mountain of mulch, plants and flowers, sitting behind and waiting to be used to spruce-up the Fannye Ayer Ponder house in St. Pete.
"Fannye Ayer Ponder traveled with Mary McLeod Bethune and also Mrs. Roosevelt," said Haynes. "She was a trusted advisor and she lived here in St. Pete. And so we want to honor her by taking the building that was really not, it was neglected."
Her house at the corner of 9th Avenue and 19th Street is getting a serious facelift.
"Downtown Rotary called us and said we want to work on that project and we want to work on it long-term," Haynes said.
Which will take a project that was expected to last just one day and stretch it out for the rest of the year.
Just down the street, little ones at the Imagine School gave back by planting flowers and laying fresh mulch all around the flower beds behind the school and on the playground.
"We are telling them, that this is a good way for them to dedicate their services back to the community as well as their school," said new principal Carolyn Wilson.
They overhauled the playground with new rubber mulch.
"I helped paint the curbs, helped clean up all the leaves, and debris that's left over," said 7th grader Payton Campbell.
"Today I painted, I planted and I kind of helped with the playground over there," said Tai Tomlin. She is not a student, but her father works at the school, so she decided to help out. She learned that even one day helping out, can have a big impact.
Projects to restore the Fannye Ayer Ponder house in St. Pete will continue for the rest of this year. The roof is the next big project that volunteers will tackle.
Then there were the women of St. Pete's Alumni Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
"It's 100 years," said member Kathryn Clark with the Delta Academy. "It's our Centennial year."
The ladies found a way to feed dozens of people and inspire the young ladies they're mentoring.
"I'm talking about a truck load full of food," said Rosalyn Connelly, who is Chair at the Delta Academy. "I'm a giver and we're teaching our young girls to be givers, so we do a lot of community service projects throughout the year with them."
Delta Sigma Theta spent their day trying to stuff an entire bus. Their goal was to fill it up with food they've been collecting things for weeks.
"We have been collecting food items and personal need items for three pantries here in St. Petersburg, starting with ASAP," said Tamaira Heyward who is President of the Alumni Chapter.
Heyward was referring to the AIDS Service Association of Pinellas. It and two other charities benefited from the collectionsThe Pantry Daystar and Operation Attack at the Lakeview Presbyterian Church Pantry.
St. Pete College helped out with a grant to further sweeten their efforts.
"Thank you so much! Awesome! We really appreciate it!," A.S.A.P.'s Executive Director Bill Harper told the ladies, as they carried their bags stuffed with food inside the building.
They left a third of what they'd collected with A.S.A.P., then loaded-up the bus with all the rest, ending their day of service doing what Dr. King would have wanted, taking action beyond the celebrations.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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