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BEAR participants to take part in MLK Day volunteer project

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Many Americans choose to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. by performing service projects to help the community. This year, add the kids at one area nonprofit to that list.

More than 15 schoolchildren participating in three programs through Bitterroot Ecological Awareness Resource will be joining forces to help a nonprofit recycling group on Monday.

BEAR features three different mentoring programs - SK8 Montana, a skateboarding group; Venture OUT, a program for at-risk youth; and Kids Outdoor Reaching Extremes, a program that targets leadership.

Participants from all three groups will gather on Monday, Jan. 16 to help volunteers at Ravalli County Recycling.

Some of the kids will be at RCR's center, helping volunteers take in recyclables dropped off at the site. Other kids will be going door to door, on skateboards and on foot, to collect recyclables and put up posters about Martin Luther King Jr. Another group will be back at BEAR headquarters, preparing a chili feast. And kids will also be creating videos for YouTube as a thank you to mentors in their lives.

BEAR program participants, their families and volunteers will be joining in the festivities, which kick off at 4 p.m. on Monday.

After the recycling center closes, its volunteers are invited back to BEAR to enjoy the chili feast with BEAR participants, families, employees, mentors and friends.

"This is an opportunity for the kids to be exposed to those in their community who are freely servicing and giving," said Barb Lucas, who is both family outreach coordinator and direct service supervisor at BEAR. "There's just a variety of ways for them to be active."

The kids will take shifts, switching which activities they perform on Monday.

Lucas said recycling ties in nicely with the mission of BEAR.

"We are ecologically minded at BEAR," Lucas said.

And it's not just a service project for the participants. Volunteers at Ravalli County Recycling will be teaching the kids their entire process - what they can take, where it goes, how it's packaged.

"We want to expose kids not just to how to recycle in town," Lucas said, "but also to the fact that they can learn because the volunteers are open to this. ... That's exciting to me when we can find something beyond just picking up trash. They can learn about this whole process from start to finish."

And what better day to do it than a day that honors a man known for his service?

"Martin Luther King, I think that's what he stood for - taking care of each other," Lucas said. "That's just part of what we teach on a weekly basis. That's one of our guiding principles. And we want to do that in an experiential way."

While BEAR is not seeking mentors at this time, Lucas said they want to raise awareness on how to serve as a mentor and are happy to refer people out. They also welcome the community to join in Monday's chili feast.

BEAR is located at 310 N. Fourth St. in Hamilton.

Reach reporter Whitney Bermes at 363-3300 or




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