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From the Westside’s Thomasboro neighborhood to the streets of uptown, Charlotteans kicked off the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend Saturday with service, marching bands and a promise to keep King’s dream alive.

More than 120 volunteers handed out fire-prevention fliers door-to-door in the low-income area around Thomasboro Elementary School. Hundreds more cheered bands and floats at the MLK parade on Tryon Street.

Anyone who missed Saturday’s events will have ample chance to honor King throughout the coming week with free concerts, prayer breakfasts, service projects and more.

“King said our lives depend on the service we do,” said Mike Dames, an educational consultant and volunteer head of the nonprofit group HOPE Charlotte.

The faith-based group joined volunteers from the nonprofit Hands On Charlotte and the local Red Cross chapter to talk with Thomasboro residents about installing detectors for smoke and carbon monoxide.

“Do you have a smoke detector?” volunteer Stan Denoux asked a 61-year-old grandmother who came to the door of a small, wood-frame house near Thomasboro Elementary.

Yes, she said. But could the fire department check her chimney to see if it was safe to use if she lost power in an emergency?

Denoux and his wife, Sue Lynn, didn’t know. But they promised to have the fire department contact the woman.

“This is what life is about,” Denoux said later. “Getting out and doing something for people worse off than you are.”

More volunteers are needed this week to renovate homes for seniors, spruce up parks and tutor children through Hands On Charlotte. Executive director Lisa Quisenbery expects more than 1,500 volunteers to participate in projects through Friday.

Along Tryon Street uptown, Thelma Williams, 66, and her daughter Sabrina Addison, 50, celebrated MLK weekend by watching the parade – saving their biggest cheers for West Charlotte High School’s marching band.

Williams was a cheerleader at West Charlotte in 1958. Each year, she and her daughter join their friend Kerry Patterson, 45, to watch the parade together.

“We have to keep the dream alive,” Williams said.

“That’s what Dr. King was about,” Patterson said.

“Peace and unity.”

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