Wheeling Community to Celebrate MLK Day with Two Days of Activities

Wheeling Jesuit University and its community partners have set the schedule of events for this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King celebration, which will be held Jan. 15-16.

New this year will be a presentation featuring an alumnus from Wheeling Jesuit University. Rev. Paul Abernathy ’01 of Focus Pittsburgh will give a talk titled “King’s Vision: A Tangible Witness in a Brokenhearted World” at 7 p.m., Monday in WJU’s Troy Theater.

The weekend celebration begins at 1:15 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 15 with the annual MLK Day Interfaith March for Peace and Freedom. Participants are asked to gather at the top of Wheeling Hill, at the intersection of National Road and Stone Boulevard, where they will walk to the bottom. The march will end by the Fourth Street United Methodist Church – located at 1060 Chapline St., Wheeling.

Participants can park at the bottom of Wheeling Hill, near the YWCA at the corner of 10th and Chapline streets. A shuttle will take people to the top of the hill to begin the walk.

At 2 p.m., Sunday, a Reflection Service will be held at Fourth Street United Methodist Church. Offering reflections will be: Owens Brown, WV NAACP, president; Rev. Cynthia Byers-Walter, Lawrencefield Parish Church; Rev. Ted Dodd, C3 Congregation; Rita Gupta, Palace of Gold; Rev. Danny Mason, Laughlin Chapel; Rev. Bill Matheny, St. Michael Parish; and Sr. Christine Riley, Sisters of St. Joseph. Those gathered will hear reflections on the rights Dr. King fought for as a civil rights activist.

A special thank you goes out to Rev. Alan Flaitz of Fourth Street United Methodist Church for providing his church and sharing his musical talents for the service.

Following the service at 3 p.m., a community meal will be held at the church, where a $3 donation per person is requested.

Sunday’s activities will conclude at 4 p.m. with a community worship service at the Macedonia Baptist Church, located on 12th Street in Wheeling. The program will be presented by the Upper Ohio Valley Ministerial Alliance.

During the service, the Rosa Parks Award will be presented to Diana Bell of Catholic Charities and John Mattox, curator of the Underground Railroad Museum. The award is given by the committee each year those in Wheeling area who continue the work of Dr. King and civil rights activist Rosa Parks. Owens Brown and Rev. Robert “Bob” Willits will receive the Dr. King Upper Ohio Valley Ministerial Alliance Award as well.

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All children’s educational activities Monday, Jan. 18 will take place at Laughlin Memorial Chapel, located at 129 – 18th St., Wheeling. The day begins with a 9 a.m. breakfast for school-age children.

“We are still in need of volunteers to help on Monday morning. We always have enjoyed spending extra time with our youth this day, and without volunteers, this would not happen,” said Rev. Daniel Mason, program director of Laughlin Chapel.

Winners of the annual MLK Day Essay Contest will read their work aloud during the activities at Laughlin Chapel. Hundreds of entries were received again this year for the essay contest. The finalists are:

Grades 1-4

First Place: Liam Shinn, St. Michael Parish School, Third Grade

Second Place: Olivia Sheller, Ritchie Elementary School, Fourth Grade

Third Place: Brennen Maloney, St. Michael Parish School, Third Grade

Grades 5-8

First Place: Erica Edinger, Triadelphia Middle School, Seventh Grade

Second Place: Harper Aulick, Triadelphia Middle School, Seventh Grade

Third Place:  Kushal Modi, Andrew Jackson-Eighth Grade

Grades 9-12

First Place: Olivia Ward, George Washington High School, 10th Grade

Second Place: Abigail Roop- Woodrow Wilson High School, 11th Grade

Third Place: Kaitlyn Kittinger- Woodrow Wilson High School, 11th Grade

Monday’s events wrap up with Rev. Abernathy’s talk at Wheeling Jesuit, which is open to the public. His presentation will explore what Martin Luther King’s healing presence meant to the Civil Rights Movement, as inspired by a spiritual heritage informed first and foremost by a mystical encounter with the Living God.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration committee is made up of members from businesses, churches, community organizations, local government and education, which includes representatives from the Upper Ohio Valley Ministerial Alliance, Fourth Street United Methodist Church, Temple Shalom, St. Michael Parish, Wheeling Human Rights Commission, Wheeling Jesuit University and the YWCA.

“We have been proud to hold this celebration for 20 years in the city of Wheeling. Snow, cold, rain or shine, people have always been proud to express their gratitude for Dr. King,” said Blake Williams, MLK committee chair.