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MLK Day of Service
It is a blessing how the students came together once again from Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville Technical Community College, and Methodist University to celebrate the work and teachings of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and participate in "A Day of Service, Not a Day Off" Monday, January 20, 2014.
The Challenge that was accepted offered service opportunities to over 300 students, faculty, staff, and community volunteers who came together and participated in a day of giving back and helping others. What was the Challenge? For those who gave of their time from 5:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. the Challenge involved being open to working with others outside our normal comfort zone - with people we didn't know on projects and sites that we didn't choose. It meant showing up with a Can Do attitude that allowed everyone the chance to embrace the unknown and unpredictable, and commit to a day of putting Self 2nd, and Service 1st. Upon check in, volunteers were assigned to teams who were later given site information and directions for the Service activity. Some teams participated in manual labor, such as moving donated mattresses, boxing canned goods, raking leaves, painting and sprucing up buildings, clipping vines from fences, clearing rocks and debris from parks, sorting clothing donations, and moving office furniture. Other teams had the opportunity to prepare Red Cross disaster packets, read to children, visit with the elderly, and prepare interview packets for homeless veterans. Additional teams participated in odds and ends activities, such as coordinating the event for the past year, volunteering time to collect donations, interviewing potential site participants, compiling grant information, attending planning meetings, serving as liaisons, collecting Reflection Cards, compiling information for activity summaries, media coverage, delivering lunches to volunteers at site locations, visiting and encouraging team participants, offering personal cell phones to coordinate activities, serving refreshments to volunteers during the morning opening ceremony, and transporting volunteers throughout the entire day beginning at 5:30 a.m. until the last service site activities concluded at 6:00 p.m. Anonymous feedback received from volunteers included comments such as, "Smiles; Laughter; Getting dirty and actually having fun!; Giving back; Being a part of something bigger than myself; Living the legacy; Setting a positive example; Being anonymous and giving to others without being center stage."
As the day started winding down, the gym was getting quieter and the last group of volunteers came in from two locations in Spring Lake. They got a round of applause as they walked through the door looking tired. I asked one of the team members why they just didn't go home after the project was completed. She told me, "We were here at the start and it was not over until we checked back in and finished the mission." The team members filled out their refection cards, grabbed some water, acknowledged their work to one another and disappeared back out the front door. OMG!
In closing, there is one factor we might overlook as we move on to another Community Engagement Project: Our students, in just ONE DAY, gave over 2,200 community service hours to the people of Cumberland County.