Celebrating what would be Martin Luther King Jr.'s 81st birthday, Virginia Tech's Center for Student Engagement and Community Partnerships is deploying teams of volunteers to help the region's daycare centers.

The 2010 Martin Luther King Daycare Facelift Project will be Saturday, Jan. 23, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. A photo from last year’s project can be found online.

Devoting his life’s work to causes of equality and social justice, King strongly believed that children hold the country’s fate in their hands.

Last year’s effort involved more than 250 participants, drawing together Virginia Tech students, faculty, and staff along with community members. The teams painted walls, fences, and wall murals and also carried out construction projects and landscaping.

This year the project is focusing on the neediest daycare centers in the region, says Karen Gilbert, an assistant director with the Center for Student Engagement and Community Partnerships. Each team will have $100 to spend on materials and supplies based on a grant from Campus Compact and funding provided by Charles W. Steger, president of Virginia Tech.

Last year’s project helped 17 daycare centers; this year’s target is 20 including seven Head Start centers. Daycares being served are situated throughout the New River Valley.

“Childcare has been identified by our community leaders as a key step in helping to break the cycle of poverty,” Gilbert says.

Area churches will be providing sack lunches for every volunteer.

The Center for Student Engagement and Community Partnerships is part of Virginia Tech’s Outreach and International Affairs.