Activities throughout January, including the presentation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Scholarships to University of Central Missouri students, the Community Praise and Worship Service, and Day of Service activities in Warrensburg and in Lee’s Summit, highlight the 2024 MLK Celebration.

All of these events and more are designed to honor King’s legacy under the theme, “Living the Dream: It Starts with Me – Spreading Hope, Courage and Unity.”

From 5:30 to 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 15, faculty and students at UCM – Lee’s Summit are involved in the MLK Celebration at the Pavilion at John Knox, 520 N.W. Murray Rd., Lee’s Summit. Interested individuals are invited to join them and other members of the Lee’s Summit community for a celebration that includes the presentation of faculty and student awards, and the MLK Art Contest Award to a Lee’s Summit R-VII student.
UCM’s Center for Multiculturalism and Inclusivity will present the discussion program, “Let’s Talk: Empathy Revolution: Walking in Others’ Shoes” from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 16 in Elliott Student Union 306. This program is also available virtually. Contact Esosa Akele at to learn more.

One of the highlights of the annual MLK Celebration is the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Scholarship Banquet. The event will take place in the ballroom of UCM’s Elliott Student Union. Doors open at 5 p.m., and the event begins at 6 p.m. This is an opportunity for UCM to publicly introduce this year’s scholarship winners in a celebration that also features vocal music and dance performances by university and community members, and art displays featuring the works of local students who are inspired by King’s message. Heavy hors d’oeuvres will be served. Tickets are required, and all funds raised at this event go directly to deserving UCM undergraduate students through Freedom Scholarships. This awards program began in 1999.

Students have an opportunity to help a variety of community partners with projects that will assist in fulfilling the organizations’ missions during the Volunteer Fair from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 17. The group will meet in the Elliott Student Union atrium. Individuals who have questions should contact Kristie Brinkley, assistant director of volunteer services, at

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Day of Service activities are planned from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 18 in the Elliott Student Union ballroom and from noon to 4 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 19, at UCM – Lee’s Summit. Students planning to participate in these activities have
pre-registered. Contact for more information.

In addition to these UCM campus activities, the presentation of Community Service Awards, hosted by the Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce, took place on Wednesday, Jan. 10 at Matthews-Crawford American Legion Post 131, 733 E. Young St., in Warrensburg. This annual event recognized an individual in Johnson County, Sharon Franklin, Warrensburg, with the Community Service Award, and Claire Thomas, a senior at Warrensburg High School, with the High School Community Service Awards. Both honors recognize the recipients’ humanitarianism, leadership and selfless service. Award presentations were made by Dr. Lover Chancler, director of UCM’s Center for Multiculturalism and Inclusivity, and Joshua Detherage, chair of the Chamber Board of Directors.

Citing nominations supporting the two award winners, Chancler said Thomas has been an active member and participant in activities coordinated by the First Presbyterian Church in Warrensburg. She has played piano, worked with children, and provided leadership for the Manna Bag Project, a philanthropic effort to provide resources for church members. She has also served as an officer for many clubs at WHS, including serving as historian of the Spanish Club, secretary for the National Honor Society, and vice president of Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA).

Thomas has given back to the community through her volunteer efforts with the Manna Harvest, which helps serve individuals in need. She has also participated in the Johnson County Cancer Foundation 5K fundraising event; Bright Sox Softball League; and volunteered at Western Missouri Medical Center.

Detherage said Franklin is being honored for volunteerism that includes her 22 years of continuous service as president of the Western Missouri Medical Center Auxiliary Board. In this capacity, she has provided consistent leadership, which has encompassed involvement in two gift shops, and service during three building projects at WMMC, and the transition of five hospital CEOs.

Her services also have included distributing treat baskets on May Day and Halloween, wrapping presents for children, assisting at the medical center’s annual ice cream social, and delivering a gift basket annually to the first baby of the new year born at WMMC. She has averaged more than 400 volunteer hours per year for the last 10 years consecutively, and, according to the nomination, she has served as a “compassionate friend providing a reassuring presence to patients alone at end-of-life care.”

Franklin has been a community partner to both the Chamber and Warrensburg Main Street, hosting coffees and participating in activities related to the annual Dickens Christmas celebration in Warrensburg. She is an active member of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Secunda Club, ABC Club, and PEO Sisterhood.

The guest speaker for the Chamber Community Service Awards Luncheon was Pastor Joel Kurz, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Warrensburg.

Another event being planned in honor of King is the annual Community Service Blood Drive Jan. 23-24 at UCM. Once finalized, registration will be online. Contact for more details.

For additional information about UCM’s MLK Celebration, contact Dr. Lover Chancler, director of the Center for Multiculturalism and Inclusivity, at (660) 543-8049

In the photo: Warrensburg resident Sharon Franklin, third from left, and Warrensburg High School senior Claire Thomas, fourth from left, were honored during the Dr. Martin Luther King Networking Lunch and Community Service Awards conducted by the Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce and University of Central Missouri on Jan. 10. Joining in the event were, from left, Suzanne Taylor, Chamber president; Dr. Lover Chancler, UCM director of the Center for Multiculturalism and Inclusivity, and Joshua Detherage, chair of the Chamber Board of Directors.

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