As part of Eastern Michigan University’s Martin Luther King Jr. day celebrations, students gathered at the Honors College to partake in service opportunities for the community.
Despite the heavy snowfall and whipping wind in the early morning, 115 EMU students met at the Honors College at 9a.m. to volunteer at one of 11 different organizations. Upon entry to the building, students picked a piece of paper with their site assignment at random from a glass bowl. Benches in the room were labeled by each site name, allowing students to sit in there groups.
Maria Demos, a junior and member of the Sigma Kappa sorority, heard about the event via her sorority’s philanthropist email.
“MLK is a very big day where you should be doing something to better the community,” she said. “I thought it was really cool idea to not have any idea of where you’re going to go or what you’re going to do.”
Organizations taking part in the event included: Food Gatherers, Ypsi Food Co-op, Girl Scouts, Corner Health Center, Habitat for Humanity, Kids Food Basket, Children’s Institute, Growing Hope, Natural Area Preservation (NAP), Ypsi Meals on Wheels, and Recycle Ann Arbor. Two more organizations were planning on participating, but due to the severe weather the work that was needed couldn’t be done.
“I think he [Martin Luther King Jr.] made a really big impact on the community and had a way of making everyone equal in the community,” said Demos. “I think volunteer events like this bring us together…in those aspects its very similar to what he did, and now, because of what he did, we’re able to do this.”
Miles Payne, EMU’s student body president, led the group heading to NAP to volunteer. He was enthusiastic for the day’s events, explaining how important they are for the community.
“A lot of what VISION does and a lot of what we do on this day service wise is revolving around class and class disparity,” he said. “I think a little known fact about MLK is that during his later days he was focused on a poor peoples’ campaign.”
“I think this is not only a day to recognize and celebrate the advancement of African Americans but also the need to serve people in a lower class.” He continued.
Michael Rafo, major projects coordinator for the VISION volunteer center at EMU, helped set up the event as he has done since fall of 2016. When asked about the importance of volunteering and service work in relation to MLK Day, Rafo noted that service should be a fundamental aspect of society.
“We should be able to give back to others and do stuff for other people,” he said. “I think it’s imperative that an event like this shows that people can reflect on service and it isn’t something they should just do on one specific day of the year.”
Groups for each organization went out to their sites at 9:45a.m., remaining till 12:30p.m at each site before being returned to the Student Center. Site leaders asked reflective questions of the students before and after their volunteering to discuss the impact of their work.
“This university has gone through a lot,” said junior Ethan Antonishak, one of the student volunteers. “We should be able to come together and make the community better as a whole.”
Last year, 98 students participated in the Day of Service. With each person contributing three hours of service, it totaled to 294 hours of volunteering for multiple causes. This year, with 115 students participating at three hours each means 345 volunteer hours were spent for this year’s causes.
The year of 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, making this year’s celebration particularly meaningful. Events will continue till Tuesday, Jan. 16. For information on the events planned, see the MLK Celebration schedule of events on EMU’s website.
For other volunteering opportunities, visit the VISION volunteer website or their office on the third floor of the Student Center.