Students connect with community during Day of Service

Lyric Roberts and Ezell Johnson volunteer at Pulaski Daily Bread during Radford University's Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.

Hundreds of Highlanders scattered across the New River and Roanoke valleys on Jan. 18 in honor of a man whose name rings synonymous with service.

More than 250 Radford University students, faculty and staff volunteered at 22 different locations, including area churches, food and clothing banks and nonprofit organizations as part of the university's third annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.

In Salem, more than 50 volunteers worked throughout the day at 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.

In Christiansburg, volunteers from the Wesley Foundation at Radford University and the university's McConnell Library handled donations at the Montgomery County Emergency Assistance Program (MCEAP) Thrift Store and More.

Taylor Brock, president of the Wesley Foundation, was among the student-volunteers who helped sort through piles of clothing and other donated items that fill the store's shelves.

"I really like getting involved in service projects, especially during the MLK Day of Service, because it makes you feel connected with the community," she said. "It brings home the message of what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for."


Melat Habtemichael laughs with Rolphine Vales (red hat) as they sort through some food donations with her sister Meron Habtemichael (second from left) and Raven Thornton (far right) at Feeding America in Salem.

At the Radford Clothing Bank, teams organized and stocked donated clothing, which will be given away for free to community members in need. 

Student-volunteer Darla Denham, a senior, was proud to be a part of the day's events.

“The university is doing so much to get the students out there, to feel like they should give back to the community,” she said. “I think it’s great that we’re doing a Day of Service, especially on a day honoring Martin Luther King Jr.”

Volunteer groups also visited several Pulaski locations, including the Rehab Center, Free Clinic and Pulaski Daily Bread, where they prepared and served lunch.

At supermarkets across the New River Valley, volunteers collected food donations for church ministries and food pantries.

Hanif Conrad and Christian Walker spent the day at Wade’s Supermarket in Radford, asking shoppers to consider making a donation to benefit the Radford Food Pantry.

“It’s important to be here to help out the community and those who might be less fortunate,” Conrad said. “And we can get others to help, too.”

Walker, a senior, says he is excited to see how the event has grown. Radford's annual service day began three years ago, and since its 2014 inception, participation has more than quadrupled.

Walker has participated in the Day of Service every year, and he offered advice to future volunteers.

"Just keep your eyes open," Walker said. "Don't sleep in. There's always a chance to sign up or get out and help."

Jan 19, 2016