Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at Gobin United Methodist Church on Sep. 5, 1960, and his effect on the community is still being felt as the Putnam County community celebrated the life of King Monday during a ceremony at the church.
The program included a sing-a-long from Putnam County children, the MLK Spirit Award presentation for student excellence, a preview of the upcoming PBS special about Percy Lavon Julian and an activities fair.
"The kids who sang in the choir brought out a lot of people in the community," said co-Master of Ceremonies Dorothy Brown.
The choir was led by Music Educator Jill Dombrowski and featured children singing songs like "He Wanted Peace" and "What a Goodly Thing."
One of the highlights of the celebration was the MLK Spirit Award. Each student that received an award was either nominated by their classmates, school faculty, family, and community.
Tzouanakis Intermediate Assistant Principal Tamra Garnes said, "It is a way to recognize students for their past contributions to school, home and community."
Winners included second grader Adrian Peters, third grader Shayna Poynter, fourth graders Cameron Hinton, Dustin Boothby, Dominique La Fontant and Kristen Stevens, fifth grader Kristen Lewis, freshmen Sandy St. Victor and Jordan Hickam, and sophomore Robert Watson.
St. Victor, a student at North Putnam, received her award for "not retaliating against people who made fun of her for the color of her skin."
"The award means that I set an example for others, especially children, and it doesn't really matter what others say," St. Victor said. "You can't tell anyone how you can act because of their skin color." Both her and her mother were very proud of the award.
This was the first year the MLK awards were given to students.
Another highlight of the celebration was a sneak preview of the upcoming PBS special about Julian. A lot of attention was paid to Julian in this year's celebration and at the activities fair, children could build models of the cortisone structure that won him the numerous awards.
More than 200 guests attended this year's event and about 35 percent of those in attendance were black. Originally a book reading at the Putnam County Public Library, the event has grown significantly in the last 10 years.
"This was the biggest we have ever had," said Event Coordinator Sue Parsons.