MCC and Macomb County Ministerial Alliance host events to honor MLK Day

Thursday, January 18, 2024 10:00 AM

MLK Day of service 2024
Charlene Lust, who was among the students who attended Monday’s MLK Day event at the Lorenzo Cultural Center hosted by Macomb Community College in Clinton Township works on a kennel blanket that will be donated to a local animal shelter. The blankets were one of several service projects being done during the event attended by students, faculty and community members.

By Gina Joseph

MLK Day is not meant to be a day of rest.

It’s meant to be a day of service and many took the message to heart Monday, by participating in volunteer activities, prayer services or celebrations honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

One such event at Macomb Community College had students, faculty and residents making blankets for local shelter animals.

“I’ve been here for this event every year,” said Greg Sims of Sterling Heights, a chemistry professor at MCC, while working on a fleece throw being made for several animal shelters in the area.

Sims was a student attending high school in Detroit when King was shot dead while standing on a balcony outside his second-floor room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. on April 4, 1968.

“I was 16,” Sims said, recalling the reaction of his family the day MLK died. “We all felt bad. We had just had the racial riots in Detroit,” he said, of the violent confrontations that took place in and around the city during the summer of 1967.

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Macomb Community College President James Sawyer IV, center, greets Melissa Witek, left, and Michella King during Monday’s MLK Day event hosted by MCC. GINA JOSEPH – THE MACOMB DAILY

 He also remembers participating in events organized in remembrance of that fateful day, long before the nation started celebrating MLK Day, and later as a father, instilling in his children the peaceful teachings of King and the importance of giving back.

“We tried to teach our children why they were not in school on this day,” Sims said of the approach he and wife Margo took.

Looking at the blanket he was making, Sims smiled and then admitted, he’s not very good at it, but he’s doing something and every little bit that someone can do makes a difference.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Theojuana Tullos of Macomb said of the projects that participants were working on at the MCC event. “I think a lot of people want to give back to their community but don’t know where to go.”

James Sawyer concurred.

“We’ve been doing this for quite a while,” said the president of MCC, who spent the morning greeting the students and other participants. “It’s always neat to see the students being able to get out and interact with folks and the community,” he said, while watching participants including a group of women from Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority’s Omega XI Chapter in New Haven, assembling projects on a table.

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Among the youngest participants during Monday’s MLK Day event at the Lorenzo Cultural Center hosted by MCC was Addison Stockard, 7, who attends Miami Elementary School. Among the projects she completed during the event was an inspirational letter for a child her age. “Being kind and caring about other people is what MLK Day is all about,” said Stockard. GINA JOSEPH – THE MACOMB DAILY

 In addition to the blankets, participants also made cards for local nursing home residents, cards of gratitude for first responders, bookmarks for libraries and love letters for literacy, sent to children in need of support.

“Sometimes it’s these initial interactions that lead many students to continue to stay engaged in these organizations,” Sawyer said.

“This is a day of service and we like to do things that serve our community,” said Melissa Witek of Auburn Hills, a member of the sorority that’s been around since 1908.

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Flutist Deblon Jackson performs for the capacity crowd gathered for Monday’s MLK Day breakfast hosted by the Macomb County Ministerial Alliance. GEORGE NORKUS – FOR THE MACOMB DAILY

 MLK Day has been a federally observed holiday since 1986, and occurs on the third Monday of January, which this year happens to be King’s actual birthday. This year also marks the 60th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act and King’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Colleen Hitchings, who works with the office of student life and leadership was a little worried that Monday’s weather conditions would impact the event but the hall was packed as always.

“This is the college’s largest volunteer event of the year,” Hitchings said, which is also one of the reasons it’s her favorite — and it’s not just one day — Monday kicks off a week of service for participants of all ages. “By the end of the week we will have over 200 people participating.”

Another event that residents look forward to every year is the annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Breakfast hosted by Macomb County Ministerial Alliance (MCMA), a community and faith based organization that works to support educational, social, economic and religious equality for all.

The MLK Day breakfast, which has moved around over the years and was held in Sterling Heights this year, is always well attended and usually includes a number of residents, community and political leaders and educators.

“This is our first year at Penna’s of Sterling Heights,” said Pastor Lance Pittman, with the Macomb Ministerial Alliance. “The space has allowed us to expand to nearly 600 participants, next year we’re hoping it’s going to be bigger.”

The event not only celebrates King but gives guests an opportunity to meet and greet members and groups in the community who are carrying on his legacy of giving back.

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Greeting friends and making new ones among the things people enjoy about the annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Breakfast hosted by Macomb County Ministerial Alliance (MCMA). GEORGE NORKUS – FOR THE MACOMB DAILY

 “Dr. King stated the highest human virtue is compassionately serving others,” said Pittman, recalling the words of MLK. “He said everybody can be great because everybody can serve. All you need is a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love. Now is the time to make sure your servant’s towel is bigger than your ego, for pride is the burden of the foolish.”

Also an annual event for the Alliance is an essay contest on topics related to MLK.

Pittman, who believes young people should be more involved in MLK festivities across the state, said the essay contest is open to students in college and high school and awards grants to winners.

“Every year it is our hope to get more students involved,” he said.

However, as an adjunct faculty member at Macomb Community College, Pittman said he applauds the colleges efforts during MLK Day.

“I feel like it could be a model for other institutions across the state,” he said. “I believe now is the time is to keep the dream that Martin Luther King had, alive through others, who share the same goals and values.”

For more information about the Macomb County Ministerial Alliance visit To participate in the MCC volunteer projects going on this week visit