Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the Chippewa Valley

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Martin Luther King Jr.’s message was to bring all races together. So on this holiday, some locals are taking the day to follow in his footsteps and serve their community.

But, for others it is a day to look ahead to the work that still needs to be done. Wisconsin is ranked as the worst state for integration of other races, according to a new Wallethub study.

But positive movements are happening in the community today as the day of service had one of the highest turnouts they have ever had. "It's really inspiring just that they are taking their day off to come out and even though it's years later, his message is still so important to keep spreading it and everything like that,” said Leah Barron, the volunteer coordinator.

The AmeriCorps eclipse program at UW-Eau Claire hosted the event at local non-profit organizations. Volunteers spent several hours helping at feed my people food bank. "It's nice to know that this is going a long way for the community, a lot of people miss out on food and stuff so it's nice to be able to help,” said Marcus Blount-Mckniley, a volunteer and student at UWEC.

A separate group was volunteering at girls on the run in the Chippewa Valley and making tutus for an upcoming fundraiser. "Girls on the run is all about having fun and showing our spirit so we like to have fundraisers that kind of embody that joyfulness and what's more fun than wearing a tutu,” said Ellie Siedow from Girls on the Run.

They are having some fun serving their community in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. who is still inspiring service decades later. "Small nonprofits like ours really can't function without a lot of strong community support and its days like this that really show me the love in the Chippewa Valley,” Siedow added.

But there is still work to be done as Wisconsin is ranked as the worst state for integration of other races, according to a new Wallethub study. “The biggest problem with segregation is when you keep races apart, we are anxious about each other and we don't realize how much we are the same,” said Selike Ducksworth-Lawton a history professor at UWEC.

She says segregation leads to issues of health, housing, education, and wealth but it takes different forms depending on the part of the state where you live. "If you are black in Milwaukee you are less likely to know a white who is within the system who you can get a job,” Ducksworth-Lawton said. “But ironically as a black person up here I'm more likely to know whites and more likely to be in the system to get jobs but I am more likely to also be whispered about."

The study from Wallethub takes into account things like employment and wealth, education, social and civic engagement and health as factors of integration. New Mexico was the number one state for integration of races while Wisconsin rounded out the bottom of the list at 50.