With classes canceled because of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, dozens of Stevenson High School students tackled community service projects across Lake County on Monday.
They volunteered at a nursing home, a township food pantry and the headquarters of a nonprofit agency that collects books for needy children, among other locations.
Some even helped clear invasive plants at a local forest preserve.
"Those kids are going to be earning their service hours with the cold weather," said Ted Goergen, director of student activities at the Lincolnshire school.
An estimated 190 teens participated in the projects.
About 14 went to the Vernon Township Food Pantry in Buffalo Grove, which isn't far from the school. There, the teens were split into groups to examine and sort food and other groceries that had been donated to the pantry.
Sophomore Adi Alkalay was with a group sorting boxes of potato flakes and similar products.
"(It's a) good use of time to help others," she said.
Junior Dana Sussmann was surprised to learn the pantry serves 281 families.
"I didn't realize how many people depend on it," she said as she sorted boxes of pancake mix and bottles of syrup. "So many people depend on it for their meals. It's an important thing to do."
Food pantry volunteer Trudy Komos appreciated the teens' help, particularly when it came to ensuring the donated packages hadn't reached their marked expiration dates.
"It saves us a whole lot of checking," Komos said.
Other Lake County programs were scheduled for Monday to honor King and his legacy as a civil-rights leader.
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White was set to appear in Highland Park to talk about his experiences as one of King's followers.
At the Vernon Area Public Library in Lincolnshire, families were encouraged to make fleece blankets that will be donated to needy children.
A theatrical presentation and other activities were planned for patrons at the Waukegan Public Library.