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Volunteers help clean up Rolling Knolls Forest Preserve as part of Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service celebrations

ELGIN, Ill. (WLS) — The sub-freezing temperatures did not stop some dedicated and bundled up Cook County residents from cleaning up one of the many county Forest Preserves Saturday.

It’s all part of honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., by uniting to make a difference.

In the bitter cold, an orchestra of saws can be heard at Rolling Knolls Forest Preserve in Elgin as part of Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service celebrations.

“Today and every day, you can choose to make a difference,” said Toni Preckwinkle, president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners.

That difference was made by dozens of volunteers from all walks of life, clearing different kinds of brush around the forest preserve’s pond.

“Around the pond here, we have invasive species such as buckthorn and honeysuckle and some box elder,” said Tom Stewart, president of Elgin Chapter of Izaak Walton League. “They become so thick that sun doesn’t even penetrate to the ground.”

Elgin resident Craig Kaufmann was also working hard cutting and removing debris with his son, hoping to use the occasion to highlight the importance of giving back and community.

“That’s why I’m kind of out of breath a little bit,” he said while keeping busy. “For people to actually come out here and do that on a cold day and get off their couches and come out — a little bit of discomfort and a little bit of effort to make the community and the lake here better for people to use – – that’s great.”

Arnold Randall is the president of Cook County’s forest preserves. He said volunteers play an irreplaceable role in maintaining the county’s green spaces.

“11% of the land mass is our forest preserves, which seems like a lot, but when you think about how much we don’t have any more as far as open spaces, it’s really important to protect it,” Randall said.

The team spirit and desire to honor Dr. King’s life is what kept this band of loyal volunteers warm.

“I think it’s important to understand that the work to make our country a better place is the work of our lifetimes, no matter how young or old we are,” Preckwinkle said.

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