Radford community’s Day of Service honors Martin Luther King Jr.
Radford University students, faculty and staff celebrated the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, Jan. 17, with a day of service throughout the Radford, Roanoke and New River Valley communities.
The university’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) organized the daylong event.
“The day was great! We had 200-plus volunteers engage with the New River Valley community,” said Ashley Offutt, director of Radford University’s Center of Diversity and Inclusion. “It was a monumental time to witness the campus community engage in the atmosphere and continued legacy of Dr. King.”
Since its inception in 2014, the event has been celebrated on the third Monday in January in conjunction with the National Day of Service, a federal holiday.
Each year, faculty, staff and student volunteers go out into the New River Valley and Roanoke areas to work with community service projects at numerous service sites. This year, those included Feeding Southwest Virginia (Feeding America) in Salem, Virginia, the Radford Women's Resource Center, the Radford-Fairlawn Daily Bread food kitchen and the Montgomery County Emergency Assistance program in Christiansburg, Virginia.
Among those sites this year was Wonder Universe, a children’s museum in Christiansburg.
Student-athletes, Radford University Greek Life members and students and faculty from the Department of English volunteered at Wonder Universe, where they cleaned, inventoried and organized materials inside the museum.
“We chose to participate because it was an opportunity to contribute to our community on a day that honors a person who contributed his all — literally his all,” said Kim Gainer, Ph.D., a professor of English and associate dean of the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences.
Student volunteers from the university’s Schoolhouse living-learning community read stories and participated in activities with the children at Radford University’s McConnell Library, which hosted a free day camp for children whose parents were participating in service day projects. Camp kids had an opportunity to tour the Radford campus and visit the Radford Planetarium, Museum of the Earth Sciences and the Student Recreation and Wellness Center.
Special education major Katie Slaydon helped facilitate and lead a group of children at the camp in making a mural representing the “big words,” she said, that Dr. King emphasized within his work. She, along with other Schoolhouse students, read a story about freedom walks in Washington, D.C., and helped kids make peace medallions.
“It is important for students here at Radford to reach out and volunteer,” said the sophomore from Catawba, Virginia.
Radford University President Bret Danilowicz was among Radford’s many volunteers. The president visited Radford-Fairlawn Daily Bread in the morning and the Women’s Resource Center and Wonder Universe in the afternoon.
“We are invested in and committed to equity and social justice. We chose a day on over a day off as just one small way of showing that,” said Associate Professor of English Michele Ren, Ph.D., who organized the group from the English department, referencing the yearly theme for the MLK Day of Service.
Senior Philosophy major Denagelo Nichols said participating in service projects “benefits others outside of yourself and opens the door for the establishment of new relationships that may last a lifetime, which I believe is a priceless gift. I think it's important not only for Radford students, but all people, to do community service if they can. The world won't change in a day, but every positive action makes the places we exist in just that much better.”