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Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service engages RU students and staff

MLK Jr., Day of Service construction

During the Day of Service that began the week-long Martin Luther King, Jr. commemorative activities, Brittany Mabry staples insulation in place as Darius Cureton holds the ladder at one of the Pulaski Tornado Recovery Project homes they helped to build.

To answer the question: "What can we do to help," more than 50 Radford University students and staff members fanned out Monday, Jan. 20, into nearby communities for a Day of Service.

The volunteers reorganized library stacks, sorted clothes, processed food at food banks and helped build houses to begin RU's week-long campus commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy.

"There are no limitations on what we will do," said Ashley Poindexter, a sophomore from Botetourt County who is majoring in communication and marketing, as she and her teammates set about digging two-foot deep post holes in the frozen clay. "We will do it all. We are cool with whatever."

Poindexter and a dozen other students representing the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI), Diversity Awareness Programming Board (DAP) and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) started their Spring 2014 semesters by helping Bill Warden, volunteer construction coordinator, build one of 18 houses that are part of the Pulaski Tornado Recovery project.

In their four-hour shift on an unseasonably pleasant January afternoon, the volunteers built a set of stairs, installed insulation in the house's crawl space and hauled and installed roofing shingles. To accomplish their various tasks, they dodged mud, broke fingernails and worked with unfamiliar tools, including a nail gun, posthole digger and heavy tamping bar.

Skye Hensley, a junior sociology major from Franklin County, spent her afternoon clambering up the ladder to deliver roofing shingles to fellow volunteers who spread and nailed them in place.

"The whole reason to be here is to help, she said. "I would like to think someone would help me if a disaster like this tornado happened to me." 

At another house being built as part of the tornado recovery project, Darius Cureton, a counseling education graduate student from Monroe, N.C., was installing insulation and had to figure out how to load a heavy duty stapler.

MLK Jr. Day of Service volunteers

Radford University student volunteers Jazmin Zapata, Tyler Pace, Elisha Chestnut and Megan Wolf pause from their Day of Service activities at the Blacksburg Library.

The Day of Service began early for the RU volunteers as two teams worked Monday morning at Radford's First Baptist Church distributing food to Beans and Rice clients and at the Blacksburg Library. Beans and Rice is a community economic development organization that builds assets and develops capacities in low and moderate income families through economic and educational programs.

In the afternoon, while the two teams in Pulaski pounded nails and dug post holes, one team was in Radford preparing children's' emergency kits for Beans and Rice and another helped out at the Montgomery County Emergency Assistance Program Thrift Store. In Salem, a team processed and prepared food packages for clients of Feeding America Southwest Virginia, a hunger/charity relief organization that serves the region's 26 counties and 10 cities.

The Day of Service was the first of a series of events and activities by which the RU community will celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and promote diversity on campus. Author Michael Eric Dyson will serve as the keynote speaker at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Program on Wednesday.

"To honor the legacy of Dr. King, these folks are demonstrating a real, personal commitment to others," said Craig Arthur, an instructional librarian and chair of the Day of Service committee that lined up volunteers and projects. "We are glad to help and appreciate everybody's enthusiasm."

Jan 22, 2014