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Families serve community on holiday
Effort focuses on giving back
Kevin Smith, community outreach specialist for Keep Forsyth County Beautiful, instructs volunteers Monday during a cleanup event for the MLK Day holiday. - photo by Jim Dean

How to help

There’s always a need for volunteers. To learn more about opportunities, visit Forsyth County Community Connection online at

Siobhan Marx’s three children couldn’t wait to get started.

“C’mon, mom,” yelled one of her sons, when he thought she was taking too long.

While many may not relish the prospect of picking up trash, a cleanup effort on the day commemorating the life of Martin Luther King Jr. stirred a spirit of service.

The Marx family was just one of several families in Forsyth County and across Georgia who took their day off work and school Monday for the MLK holiday to give back to the community.

“It’s important to start early to teach your children to give back. Too much is take, take, take,” Siobhan Marx said.

She added that her children have learned a lot in school about the late civil rights leader.

“They’re teaching me about it today,” she said. “They’re taught a lot in school about his life, so today was more of an aspect of ‘have you carried his lesson forward?’”

It was an important message for Kevin Smith, community outreach specialist for Keep Forsyth County Beautiful, who led a road cleanup for the MLK Day of Service.

As someone who grew up in the South, he said the holiday has a special place in his heart.

“It’s a day dedicated to a man who gave most of his life, if not all of his life, to the service of others,” he told cleanup volunteers. “Take a look and see what it’s all about.

“A lot of you guys may think it’s about a cause here today, but there was a lot to the movement.”

Smith said he hopes to expand on the cleanup next year, making it unique to MLK Day. But no matter what, KFCB will always have an event planned for the holiday.

“I can’t imagine not having an event on a day when people are out looking for an event,” he said.

Monday was the second time Robin Rakowski had participated in the MLK Day cleanup with her son. This year, she brought along a friend, Leslie O’Donnell.

“I just wanted to be part of the community,” O’Donnell said. “It’s important to give back to the community because I’m a part of it. It’s a good thing to do.”

Kristina Grove also attended the cleanup last year with her children.

“It’s a great thing to do on MLK Day, to go out and help clean up the county,” she said. “It’s a good learning experience and teaches responsibility and makes you more aware of your environment.”

“You notice trash a lot more, so it makes you more aware to make sure that you take care of your own trash and don’t throw it out the window.”

In years past, Forsyth County’s celebration of the Day of Service included multiple events on the same day.

This year, however, organizer Forsyth County Community Connection took a different approach.

Over the weekend, volunteer groups got an early start by working with Meals By Grace, preparing and serving meals to economically disadvantaged families in the community. Then, on the day of service itself, there was just one event.

“Rather than creating things to do, we wanted to make sure that we were highlighting that volunteers are always needed, so we wanted to encourage people not only to serve today but to serve throughout the year,” said Nicole Morgan, executive director of community connection.

“We are working on a regular basis … trying to make sure that people are aware that we’re here and that the need for service is always here in the community.”