The Pekin YWCA’s Coalition for Equality is hosting its annual breakfast honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Saturday, when the public can also donate food that will assist Pekin students.

Breakfast will start at 9:30 a.m. at Grace United Methodist Church, 601 N. Fourth St. in Pekin. It is free to the public. This year marks their 26th year honoring King’s legacy. Pastries, juice, milk and coffee will be available, and Pekin Community High School culinary arts students will provide scones they made. The program will begin at 10 a.m. and will last about an hour. It will feature a speaker and the announcement of this year’s student poster contest.

In the past, the coalition asked for donations such as toiletries and canned foods. This year, it is asking people who attend to bring a non-perishable food item that will be donated to the newly formed Mobile Food Pantry to assist Pekin students. At this time, it is not known which Pekin students in what age group and grades will be helped by the pantry.

This year’s featured speaker is Irene Louis-Wimbley, who serves on the Pekin First Church of the Nazarene staff as director of Southside Community Center in Peoria. Louis-Wimbley has a background in social work and served as a children’s advocate for Sauk Valley’s YWCA. She has a bachelor’s degree in pastoral studies and a master’s degree in pastoral leadership. She is also the founder of the Evergreen Project, which is “a strategic planning model designed to mobilize lay leadership to engage in gospel saturation of some of our most marginalized populations in rural Illinois,” according to her bio provided by the coalition.

Maureen Naughtin, YWCA community outreach director, said this is also a day of service.

“In addition to honoring the legacy of Dr. King, we felt it is important to do something that day,” Naughtin said. “He served others. It is one thing to attend a performance and have breakfast. It’s another to carry his message forward. He was a person of action and powerful words.”

Besides accepting donations non-perishable food donations, the coalition is also offering all children who attend the chance to choose a free book to take home with them. Naughtin said that all the books are “diversity based in nature.”

Some titles available for elementary school-aged children include “Who was Sojourner Truth?,” “Who was Rosa Parks?” and “Who is Barack Obama?” There will also be titles geared toward older readers such as “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry,” “The Watsons Go to Birmingham,” “Hidden Figures” and “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.”

The books are possible from community donations and funding. The coalition gave away 350 books in 2018.

“The coalition has an outreach program called Feeding Through Reading, and we get donations for that,” said Naughtin. “Thanks to grant funding from Kiwanis (Club) and Rotary (Club), we will have three free little libraries in town. We are partnering with the construction class at PCHS to build in the spring.”

Winners of the poster contest, which was open to children who attend a District 108 or 303 school, will be announced after Louis-Wimbley speaks.

Contest participants were challenged to think about what hashtag King would use today to spread a message of peace and equality in 2019. Naughtin said they wanted to use a hashtag to keep it modern. Participants were allowed to use any medium, and all artwork had to be original. 

Winners will be from four grade level categories: K-3rd graders, 4th-6th, 7th and 8th, and high school. There will be one winner from each category.

All posters will be displayed at Grace United Methodist Church. Winners will have their posters displayed in the hallways at YWCA of Pekin at 315 Buena Vista Ave.