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Iowans remember the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through community service

Urban Dreams, a Des Moines-based nonprofit, hosts their annual "Day of Service" on the holiday.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Community members gathered in Des Moines to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in a kind of unusual way: by picking up their shovels and starting their snow blowers. 

For them, the holiday wasn't just a day off. It was a chance to help neighbors in need.

After a snowstorm dropped over 14 inches of snow in Des Moines the previous week, there was still plenty on the ground to clean up. Urban Dreams, a nonprofit working with underserved communities, brought volunteers out to the metro to help clear out sidewalks that were still covered. 

Izaah Knox, Executive Director of Urban Dreams, wasn't too concerned with why it hadn't been done yet. He was just happy to help.

"There may be a reason why they didn't do it. It may be health, financial, whatever. Make sure that we're out here helping them because if you help your neighbors it's actually helping the community as well," Knox said.

Even with all of the extra volunteering today, the day-to-day operations at Urban Dreams were still open as well. Volunteers were able to help clean the office and organize donations to keep services like the food pantry open for community members who need them.

"We have food donations that come through from the Food Bank of Iowa, Kum & Go, Starbucks, a few other places. So we're still open and doing business as usual, even though we got our day of service going on," said Rachel Manna, Executive Admin Assistant with Urban Dreams.

That opportunity to serve is important, and not just for Urban Dreams. Taking the time to volunteer and work with others makes the community better for everyone.

RELATED: Getting to know the man behind the holiday: Facts about the life, legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

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"The only way that we're ever going to get anything done is by volunteering our time. I know that not everybody can do things by themselves. So helping other people in need is huge. And it goes right along with our mission statement to help others," Manna said.

And all of this work happening on Martin Luther King Jr. Day isn't a coincidence, either. The best way to honor a life dedicated to service is by finding your own ways to do exactly that.

"Martin Luther King was all about service was all about helping others," Knox told Local 5. "We want to make sure that we're embodying and giving people opportunities to do the same thing and following Martin Luther King's footsteps and the other people that have fought so hard to make sure that we have the freedom that we have today."

If you are interested in supporting the work Urban Dreams is doing throughout the rest of the year, you can find a list of events, as well as how to donate, here.

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WATCH: Bringing MLK Jr. Day beyond the one day  (January 2021)

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