WVU Tech community celebrates MLK Day with more than 360 hours of community service
WVU Tech’s Carter Hall stood quiet in the Monday morning cold. From that century-old lawn, it didn’t seem like the building was boiling over with energy, but it was. Inside, more than 100 volunteers gathered in the auditorium, finished their coffee, tightened their scarves and buzzed about with excitement as they received their assignments.
The group gathered to honor the legacy of minister and civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As part of the MLK Day of Service, the volunteers would spread out to nine sites throughout Beckley, working alongside nonprofit groups and logging hundreds of combined hours of service in the local community.
Candice Stadler, associate dean of student development, said this year’s MLK Day volunteer turnout was the largest she had seen in her time at the University.
“This is our second-annual MLK day in Beckley. We feel like this has been a great way to connect students to our community. It’s important for the spirit of MLK day, which is about serving others, and it’s a great way to kick off the semester and get students involved in projects in the community where they live now,” she said.
Volunteers at the Youth Museum of Southern West Virginia spent hours glazing more than 200 bowls that had been crafted by local youth. Destined for the Beckley Quota Club’s “Empty Bowls” project, the creations will be sold to raise money for local food pantries.
Adriana Rosendo, a mechanical engineering senior from Venezuela, said that she was proud to have been a part of the project.
“I think this is a really cool idea where they can involve the community with something as simple as bowls. The kids made these bowls. Now college students are glazing them. Other people will sell them. A lot of people come together to make this happen from a lot of different ages and backgrounds. It's so amazing to see this come together," she said.
Students also worked with One Voice on projects at the organization’s headquarters and the Garments of Praise community closet, where they helped paint, organize and distribute clothing and food items to those in need.
On campus, student volunteers spent their time in the Innovation Building helping the Community Transformation Project organize projects and inventory robotics kits. The project offers weekend STEAM programming for area K-12 students. On Saturdays, the organizations teaches kids everything from coding and robotics to urban gardening and entrepreneurship.
In Uptown, students went to work at the Raleigh County Community Action Association Opportunity Closet. The closet offers clients quality clothing items to help boost confidence as they take on job interviews and enter the workforce. The program serves those who are part of the association's programming, including Head Start, the transportation program, the Pine Haven Homeless Shelter or anyone within their housing programs.
Tennille Limer is the housing director for the association. She said that help from the students frees the group up to focus on their primary mission.
"All of our housing programs are focused on those individuals who are literally homeless or in a place not meant for human habitation,” she said. “Our programs work to move people from those situations and get them into permanent, stable housing."
"Partnering with WVU Tech on this is important to us. Getting the community involved, especially these young students, keeps us fresh and it opens their eyes to the needs in the community. I think it's great for them and it's great for our organization as well," she said.
A few blocks away on Neville Street, another group cleaned and organized at Tickety Boo Mercantile . The retailer maintains a unique shopping space for clients of the Women’s Resource Center who are transitioning out of the program. Another group helped with projects at the Center’s shelter across town.
Matthew Lively, a sophomore nursing major from Beckley, was on hand for the Tickety Boo project. Between furniture-laden trips across the shop, he shared that he was pleased to share his day off for something that would help others.
"It's Martin Luther King Day. It's a chance to honor that through community service. All Tech students should do community service. It gives them an opportunity to interact with the community. It brings them out of their shell and gives them a chance to help out while seeing what the world is like out there,” he said.
“If you get a chance to do community service, do it,” he added.
Brandon Cale is a floor supervisor at the Arnold Logistics Center at the Summit. He said that the facility is still in the process of wrapping up from the summer's National Jamboree, so volunteers spent the day helping to organize materials and tents. The international Jamboree will be held in 2019 – the first in North America in more than 50 years. Cale said it takes about a year to prep and a year to recover from a Jamboree event, so volunteers are extremely valuable.
"I believe that community service gives them an opportunity to get out and broaden their horizons. You also become more attached to the community that you're in. If you become an active, involved citizen, then you're apt to help withe growth of the local community, whether or not you were a part of it to begin with," he said.
WVU Tech student and employee volunteers were joined by local volunteers from a number of service organizations.
Laura Lucas is an AmeriCorps VISTA working with volunteer programs at WVU Tech. She helped to organize the day’s events – a starting point to what she sees as a long and beautiful relationship with the community.
“Since being here, I’ve seen how the WVU Tech community works like a family. I think it’s important that we’re also a good neighbor, so I’m very excited to get out into the community and to see needs and work to meet those needs where we can,” she said.
All told, volunteers put in more than 360 hours of service. The day didn’t get much warmer, and the wind cut like January wind cuts, but volunteers wrapped the afternoon up in great cheer. They had spent a day living the legacy of service and compassion left by Dr. King. They spent a day giving in any way they could. They spent the day as a family, working together to prove to the world, and themselves, how far the helping hand can go.
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