'That was the choice whether we stay at home or go out and work'

EUGENE, Ore. -- Volunteers around the nation spent Martin Luther King Jr. Day helping make their local communities a better place to live.

In 2009, president Obama signed a bill designating the holiday as a national day of service.

People around town spent their Monday giving back and honoring the memory of Martin Luther King Jr.

The Whitney family said they had a choice on how to spend their day off of work and school.

"That was the choice whether we stay at home or whether we go outside and work in Hendricks Park," said Jamie Whitney.

Jamie said that he chose to bring his children out to help with trail and park restoration to show them what their day off was truly all about. "I told my son that MLK Jr. did something really important for the people, and that he showed us that we're strong in ourselves and that we can all make a difference," Whitney said.

Dozens of other volunteers helped out at Hendricks Park, spending the day raking, shoveling and packing gravel to help other park-goers enjoy the beauty of nature.

"It just makes me feel great to be able to help everybody with anything they need," Ben Heiner, a student at South Eugene High School said.

Down the hill on the University of Oregon campus at the Wesley Center a group of elementary school kids spent their day off building obstacles and equipment used in training service dogs.

The children were involved with the UO Youth Enrichment Program, building service gear for the canines at Sunstone Service Dogs.

Melissa Mitchell, a trainer at Sunstone Service Dogs said that she hopes each of the children feels like they helped make other people's lives better on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

"The kids have donated their time, their energy, their brains, and really done a great job putting all this equipment together and testing it out and problem solving it," said Mitchell.

Did you do something to better your community this Martin Luther King Jr. Day? Send us your photos!