Organizers expect more than 300 attendees to celebrate the life of one of America's most important civil rights leaders when Westerville hosts its Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast Celebration on Monday, Jan. 18.

Organizers expect more than 300 attendees to celebrate the life of one of America's most important civil rights leaders when Westerville hosts its Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast Celebration on Monday, Jan. 18.

The annual event is meant to celebrate King's "life, works and ideals," and will feature guest speaker Debby Irving, author of the book Waking Up White.

Irving will discuss her own journey and experiences with racial inequality, often coming from "well-intentioned individuals."

Phyllis Self, co-chairwoman of the city's MLK Breakfast Celebration Committee, said members hope Irving's discussion will start another conversation.

"Really, what we wanted to do was start a community conversation about race relations and inclusion and understanding," she said. "That was the reason her name and her book came into the picture.

"A lot of times we go through life and have to have 'aha' moments where we recognize some of the things we need to do differently," she said. "Her message really resonates with a lot of people. ... It was her sharing of her 'aha' moment that I think will translate over and help people get to theirs."

Mayor Kathy Cocuzzi said the event grows in importance as "Westerville is more diverse today than ever," and the breakfast is "more relevant now than ever before."

"The MLK annual breakfast is an opportunity for us to reflect on where we are as a community in terms of tolerance and acceptance of diverse cultures," she said. "It also presents the opportunity for self-growth (and) to expand our viewpoint and to continue to find ways to take the first step."

Self agreed. She said the breakfast serves as a call for attention to an important issue.

"We really don't take the time out to reflect upon where we're at, where we've come from and where we need to go as a community as it revolves around race or even just the teaching of Dr. Martin Luther King," she said. "At the breakfast, we really take time out to celebrate that and celebrate his message and come together as a community. There really aren't that many opportunities to do that."

Leaders will also hand out the Alston Award -- given to members of the community "who have demonstrated the characteristics of Dr. King" -- and Fouse Awards -- named to honor the first black graduate in Westerville.

The Urban Jazz Coalition will provide entertainment throughout the event.

Registration for the breakfast costs $25 for adults, $15 for students.

Tickets can be purchased online at lw-mlk2016.event brite.com and will be available at the door.

The event will start at 8 a.m. at the Villa Milano Banquet and Conference Center, 1630 Schrock Road. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m.

Elsewhere in Westerville, Otterbein University will celebrate King's life with its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service and the 30th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation -- both on Wednesday, Jan. 20.

The public lecture, featuring Irving, will be held at 3:30 p.m. in the Fritsche Theatre at Cowan Hall, 30 S. Grove St.

For the service day, the university will host a food packaging event from 5 to 10 p.m. at the campus center, 100 W. Home St. Participants will package macaroni-and-cheese meals that will be distributed by Westerville Area Resource Ministry and the new Otterbein campus food co-op.