The life of Martin Luther King Jr. was celebrated this week, and although there wasn't a major event in his honor in Grant County, the spirit of his message is strong here.

It is service that is the great equalizer, King said, and he pushed people to give of themselves for others.

He wouldn't have had to push hard in Grant County, where taking care of its own is practically a second career.

There's a story on the front page this week about the more than $6,000 that was raised through the sale of patriotic magnets. The money is on its way to help families of soldiers serving in Iraq.

"It's a very small area, (and) it's a very large check that we're giving over,"-said Carol Pegram, who spearheaded the fund-raising effort.

It's pretty clear that giving is part of the county's personality. During the last six months of 2004, it was heard often that fund-raising efforts - from things like sending children to summer camp, to more important things like driving an ambulance - exceeded what was donated the year before.

Be it cash or food or time, the people of Grant County are ready, willing and able to help each other.

The Day family found out about this firsthand when 10 days before Christmas their home in John Day burned to the ground.

They lost everything, including Sam the cat, and things looked bleak, but this community didn't let them stay sad for long.

Within days, the family had clothes, blankets, furniture and even a place to stay, where the youngest boy opened gifts of toys on Christmas Day.

"They made Christmas an actual Christmas," said Shawn Day, who couldn't say enough good things about the people who helped. "We didn't know what we were going to do."

Day's co-workers at the Credit Union, where she had been hired three days before, knew what to do - they sent the word out, and sure enough, people opened their hearts.

Another way people here help each other is by joining one of the county's volunteer fire departments. These people often risk their lives to protect us and our possessions - on their own time, and for no money.

The fire departments could use some help, too, in the form of a few more able bodies.

Annual training sessions will be held Feb. 5 and 6 at the fire station in Long Creek and on Feb. 19 and 20 at the fire station in Burns. Would-be firefighters must attend both sessions.

The John Day Fire Department is holding introductory classes at 7 p.m. Jan. 19 and Jan. 26 at the station. These classes, about two hours each, are required before attending the weekend training sessions.

For more information about being a volunteer firefighter, call Ted Johnson, 575-1026.

None of these people call the newspaper to get a pat on the back. They wouldn't consider such a thing. Why would they? Around here, helping is just part of being alive, like breathing.

Maybe so, but we're going to say, thank you, anyway.

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