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Delta grant keeps MLK historic site open for federal holiday, despite shutdown

Thanks to the grant, the park will open its doors to the public at 9 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 19.

ATLANTA — Concerns the government shutdown may impact celebrations for the King holiday and beyond at the historic Atlanta site have been eased, thanks to a generous grant from another Atlanta company. 

Delta Air Lines announced Thursday a $83,500 grant from its foundation, along with revenue from National Park Service fees, would keep the 35-acre historic site in Atlanta's Sweet Auburn neighborhood open in the days ahead of the Jan. 21 King holiday.

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King's daughter, Dr. Bernice King, expressed concerns last week that the government shutdown - now the longest in U.S. history - would impact the King Center and its ability to observe the federal holiday.

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She got emotional speaking about the park rangers, who are usually by her side when she makes the MLK Day announcements each year.

"As I stand here today, I feel a little bit of sadness. Our main partner is the National Park Service. I almost feel like crying and they're not here with us today," she said. "I can feel that there's a space missing here."

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Thanks to the grant, the park will open its doors to the public at 9 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 19. It will remain open to the public for 16 days, through Sunday, Feb. 3, allowing those visiting Atlanta for the Super Bowl will have access to the important site.

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“As we celebrate his life and legacy this holiday weekend, we felt it was important we do our part to ensure that the historical landmarks be accessible to the public,” said Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Lines and Trustee of The Delta Air Lines Foundation. “Dr. King was about bringing people together and at Delta, we are about making the world a smaller place.”

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King commented on how some families could be having a hard time because of the shutdown. The Associated Press said said roughly 800,000 federal workers - more than half of them still on the job - have been affected by the stoppage that began Dec. 22. 

"Most of those people, their livelihoods, they make just enough money to take care of basic necessities and many people are having to reaching into savings, which is really unfortunate," King continued. 

Other national park sites across the country have also been forced to either shut down or impose fees to help curb trash left and maintain trails. 

The shutdown is already approaching the one-month mark, with no foreseeable end in sight.

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