Details are being worked out for the annual MLK celebrations which will begin Jan. 17, 2008, and run through Jan 21. The event includes a health fair, oratorical contest, vendors and a college fair.

The “Unity in the Community” event has grown with each year and allows community members the opportunity to have access to services that they might not be able to take part in without it.

“The event was started as a way for the whole community to come together and spend some time getting to know each other. It has evolved into a way for people to not only come together but to take advantage of some life-saving medical testing as well as participate in services at little or no cost that they would not be able to afford any other way. We are proud of how the event has changed and grown and we hope to see continued support for every aspect of the event,” said Shirley Watson, co-organizer of the event.

The kick off for the event is the oratorical contest, to be held Jan. 17, (at a location to be announced) for all students K-12 grade who would like to participate. Each student practices a portion of text predetermined by the judges and recites it in front of an audience the evening of the contest. Organizers were encouraged by the number of children that participated in last year's contest and hope to have as many or more participants this year.

“Having the kids start the celebration with the oratorical contest has always been a nice way to get things going because they are the future of our community. It is a symbol of hope to see the kids take interest in participating and stands as a reminder of why we do what we do,” Watson said.

The main portion of the event, which includes the health screenings, college fair and vendors will take place on Jan. 19 at Bowie Elementary School.

The health screenings portion of the event has proven to be the reason for many people in the community to have detected potentially life-threatening diseases early enough to obtain treatment and survive. Among the tests being offered this year are free prostrate screening exams being offered by Methodist Hospital and Ennis Regional Medical Center will be offering free cholesterol and diabetes screenings. Methodist Hospital will also be providing mammograms free for those with insurance and at a low cost for those without. Carter Bloodcare will also be holding a blood drive in the parking lot and organizers hope people will donate to support their efforts.

“We are able to offer many tests and screenings free of charge to people and we hope that they will take the opportunity to donate blood during the blood drive because many lives can be saved from their donation and donations can also be earmarked for a family member or friend that needs blood,” Watson said.

The college fair, which has helped put students in contact with college recruiters and given them an opportunity to learn more about which school and which field of study they night have interest in, will also be held Jan 19 and will coincide with the health fair.

To date, 12 schools and service programs have committed to being at the event, with the possibility of scholarships being given at that time.

“We are very excited about the opportunity we are offering the community with the college fair. I really think it is more of a career fair because with the wide selection of programs being represented the opportunities are not limited to high school seniors but to anyone interested in advancing their career, completing their education or continuing it. This is a tremendous opportunity for students and adults as well and we hope people really take advantage of having this valuable resource available to them during the fair,” said Cora Whitlock, organizer of the college fair.

Food and craft vendors will also be set up for people to browse and sample a variety of treats and the Lovie Boyd award will be given to someone that has volunteered their time and efforts to make a difference in the community.

Nominees for the award are still being accepted and must have demonstrated excellence in any of the following areas:  by being a role model for encouraging others to volunteer in community service, displayed dedication through consistent commitment to service in the community, demonstrated exemplary leadership, cooperation and hard work in the community and their service to others and demonstrated excellence and integrity. To nominate an individual, contact (972) 878-6177.

The event will also include a church service on Jan.20 to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Sr. and a basketball tournament on Jan. 21.

A souvenir program will be printed for the event and the MLK event committee is looking for sponsors to place ads in the program to help cover the cost of the event. All donation are tax deductible under the Ennis King Celebration's non-profit status.

To learn more about the event or to place an ad, contact (972) 878 6177.