Day of Service kicks off MLK celebrations
Among the many things that Martin Luther King Jr. inspired the country to strive for was a commitment to service to one’s community.
In one of his most famous quotes, the civil rights leader called Americans to action, saying, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'"
More than 100 Radford University students and faculty answered that call on Monday, Jan. 19, at the university’s second annual recognition of the national Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.
“It is important to celebrate this day as a day ‘on,’ not merely as a day ‘off,’” said Crasha Townsend, director of the RU Center for Diversity and Inclusion. “King didn't choose to take days off of his journey toward civil rights or promoting equitable treatment. We can't take off from helping others who need our service not just during the King holiday, but all year long.”
Student volunteers representing organizations such as the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI), Diversity Awareness Programming Board (DAP), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), RU Greek Life and more started their Spring 2015 semesters at sites around the region, sorting clothes, processing food at food banks, soliciting donations for charitable organizations and helping feed the community’s needy.
The day started early at the Radford Clothing Bank, where students did their part in sorting donations. The bank provides good-quality used clothing either for free or at low cost to persons in need in the New River Valley.
Christian Walker, junior information systems major and member of Men of Standards and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., acted as the RU site leader.
"Giving back to the community is something I feel you should always try to do," said Walker, who was part of a crew of eight students throughout the day.
Students often hear about community service organizations like the Clothing Bank but don’t always get the chance to volunteer, Walker said, making the Day of Service an important link to the community.
Students also gathered at Wade’s Supermarket in Radford and Kroger in Fairlawn to hold Highlander Helpers Food Drives. They found the community eager to support the effort to feed the area’s hungry and keep food pantries stocked.
"Everyone came ready and prepared, but we didn't expect the donations to be this outstanding," said Brook-Lynn Velvin, second year Counseling Education graduate student representing the CDI.
At the Radford Health and Rehab Center, RU students teamed with Beans and Rice Inc., a community economic development organization that works with low and moderate income families, to make blankets and greeting cards for residents at the center and others like it around the NRV. The program put RU students in touch with elderly Radford residents and younger children from the community to bring joy to those in need.
“The RU students have been great,” said Megan Mooney of Beans and Rice. “I’ve been incredibly impressed with their initiative. They arrived and got right to work.”
While Radford-based teams connected with the local community, several others were at work around the region.
- More than 20 volunteers made the trip to Salem to work with Feeding America Southwest Virginia, an organization that distributes more than 20 million pounds of food annually to nearly 400 partner agency soup kitchens, rescue missions and food pantries across 26 Virginia counties.
- Students set up, assisted running and cleaned up the lunch service at Pulaski Daily Bread, a community dining center run by the First Presbyterian Church of Pulaski.
- Volunteers helped sort donations and clean and organize the Montgomery County Emergency Assistance Program (MCEAP) Thrift Store in Christiansburg.
The Day of Service is 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 and off. Educator and author Steve Perry will serve as the keynote speaker at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Program on Wednesday, Jan. 21 Other events throughout the week include:
Tuesday, Jan. 20:
- McConnell Library Archives exhibit opening
- RU Reads unveiling, Covington Center, 4 - 6 p.m.
- Cultural Jeopardy, 6:30 p.m., Heth Hall
Wednesday, Jan. 21:
- Dine on Diversity, CDI, Tyler Hall 25, noon – 1 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 22:
- Reenactment of the March on Washington, Tyler Hall, 6 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 23 – Sunday, Jan. 25:
- 3rd Annual MLK Excursion – Memphis
The Day of Service and other MLK week events are sponsored by the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, McConnell Library, the Office of the Provost, R-SPaCE, the Diversity Awareness Programming Board, the Scholar-Citizen Initiative, NAACP and Men of Standards.