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MLK Prayer Breakfast honors retiring community members

Becky Campbell • Updated Jan 13, 2018 at 11:41 PM

More than 200 people gathered Saturday to remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and recognize those in the community who continue to carry on his message.

The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast, held at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, paid tribute to King and drew attention to the work of five community leaders who are retiring or have already retired:

• Becky Buchanan, described as someone with “boundless energy” who recently retired as the community relations director for the City of Johnson City;

• Rev. C.H. Charlton, longtime pastor of Friendship Baptist Church, who said he didn’t just walk through the doors of the Civil Rights Movement. “I jumped,” he said;

• Fay Rutledge, a retired Johnson City Schools teacher who continues to influence students through substitute teaching tutoring and listening to youth;

• Mark Sirois, Johnson City police chief who will retire next month and who is a strong supporter of community policing and community engagement to improve relations with law enforcement; and

• Michelle Treece, a retired Johnson City Schools teacher who saw great success in helping students rise up and improve themselves and their grades to ensure they would graduate with their class.

Keynote speaker the Rev. C.C. Mills Jr., pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Greeneville and the deputy district attorney general for the 3rd Judicial District, challenged the crowd to continue the work King started.

“Dr. King was not just good for black Americans. He was good for all Americans,” Mills said. King “instilled hope in people that needed hope ... everybody needs hope. You can’t make it without hope.”

Founded and hosted for many years by the Langston Heritage Group, the Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast was held at Carver Recreation Center for the past two years as a benefit to help provide funding for educational field trips for Carver youth.

Proceeds from last year’s breakfast helped provide a trip to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., for about 40 students in the Carver center’s after-school program. This year’s proceeds will benefit the Carver Recreation Center Historic Field Trip Committee.

More events to honor King

The prayer breakfast was just one of numerous events in the coming week that will celebrate Kings’s birthday. Other events include:

• Two Days of Service will take place, allowing ETSU students and organizations to honor King by serving in the local community. The Office of Community Service Programs and Volunteer ETSU will connect participants with nonprofits and other organizations to accomplish a variety of tasks.

The Days of Service will be held Monday, Jan. 15, and Saturday, Jan. 20, from 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. both days. More information and a link to the participation registration form are available at www.etsu.edu. Additional information may also be obtained via email at serve@etsu.edu.

• On Tuesday, Jan. 16, in conjunction with the first day of spring semester classes, the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Cake Cutting Celebration will be held at the Multicultural Center on the second floor of the D.P. Culp University Center from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

• That same day, Dr. Brenda White Wright will speak on King and civil rights at the Reece Museum at 4 p.m., followed by a Unity Walk starting at 6 p.m. at the museum.

• The Washington County Democratic Party will hold its first monthly meeting of 2018 at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 15, at the Democrat Resource Center, 2700 S. Roan St., Suite 440. There will be a special program in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The meeting is open to everyone, free to attend and handicap accessible. It will also be livestreamed via the Washington County Democratic Party's Facebook page. For information, email WCTNDP@gmail.com or call 423-282-2081.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday to celebrate the civil rights leader’s Jan. 15 birthday. It’s marked on the third Monday of January, which falls on King’s birthday this year.

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