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Visitors walk through the Martin Luther King Memorial, featuring a 30-foot statue of Dr. King and prominent quotes from the civil rights leader, in this 2015 file photo.

Looking to add different programs to engage the community, the Fort Belvoir Library will hold its first writing essay contest this month.

Using Martin Luther King Day as the inspiration, the library is asking participants to answer the question: “What equality means to you?”

This is a virtual contest that runs now through Jan. 22 and is broken down into four age categories: Adult (18 or older), Teen (13 to 17 years of age), Youth (9 to 12 years of age) and Child (8 and under). Participants can submit entries as an individual or as part of a team. There is no cost.

Each essay must run no more than two pages and can be double-space typed, hand-written or done in creative art.

Participants can submit their entries two ways: to usarmy.belvoir.id-sustainment.mbx.library@mail.mil as an attachment or typed up or scanned.

Or they can drop them off in person at the library Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The library asks that participants call ahead of time to say they are coming by with their entries and that they don’t not leave their entry in the drop box.

Fort Belvoir’s Library staff has held reading contests in the past, but wanted to branch out by doing a writing contest as well. The key is finding ways to make it educational and entertaining.

“For the writing contests, we want to do something for fun rather than make it sound like we are making them do something,” said Nilya Carrato, Fort Belvoir’s supervisory librarian.

Carrato and her staff will serve as judges. Essays will be judged on “overall substance, organization, style and correctness.” Carrato said first, second and third prizes will be awarded for each age category. Winners will be announced Jan. 25.

Carrato said the library is looking forward to using this format as a way to connect with regular library customers who they haven’t seen as often because of the pandemic.

“It’s a nice surprise when the finished product comes in and we can say we know the family name,” Carrato said.

Carrato said the library plans to do more writing contests this year with the next one scheduled in the spring.