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Newtown Florist Club expands MLK holiday
Club adds second day to annual celebration
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Martin Luther King Jr. Day events
Youth Celebration
When: 2:30-4:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Fair Street Elementary School
What: Youngsters will express how they feel about the civil-rights leader with songs, poems, dances and speeches

Annual march
When: 1:30 p.m. Monday
Where: SunTrust Bank on E.E. Butler Parkway to Fair Street
Elementary School
Also: There will be additional events at the school

After 40 years of celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream with a march through the streets of Gainesville, the Newtown Florist Club is shaking things up a bit.

The florist club’s celebration is expanding to specifically involve the community’s young people, said the club’s program director Annette Woods.

“Sometimes, we have some (young people) that come out and march with us, but this year, we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome if the youth had an opportunity to express what they felt about Martin Luther King?’” Woods said.

Operating under the theme of celebrating unity, more than 100 youth are expected to participate in an event Sunday that will allow the community’s youth to do just that at Fair Street Elementary School with songs, poems, dances and speeches about the effect of King’s life on the community.

Sunday’s event, from 2:30-4:30 p.m., is the precursor to the Newtown Florist Club’s annual MLK Day celebration, which begins at 1:30 p.m. Monday with a parade from SunTrust Bank on E.E. Butler Parkway to Fair Street Elementary School and continues with community-driven entertainment at the school.

But with Sunday’s event, the Newtown Florist Club, in its 40th year, hopes to inspire the community’s youth to look back on King’s life and work to improve their own community.

“Things are not exactly where people in the community would like them to be,” Woods said. “So every year as you remember, you remember the struggles and you remember also to keep moving forward. And it gives the youth the opportunity, as they grow up, to join in the process of continuing to move forward.”

One specific issue the Newtown community is working on is improving the community’s living conditions — the neighborhood’s homes and its environment, Woods said.

As part of those improvements, the Newtown Florist Club will establish a community garden near Desota Park this year, Woods said.

The garden will provide nutritious food for Newtown residents as well as cement the community’s unity. Woods said it is the club’s goal to have the youth involved in the garden.

“There’s a lot of working together in a community garden, and there’s a lot that people can receive from working together in a community garden,” Woods said.