Temperatures on Saturday hovered around freezing, while remnants of a recent snowstorm dotted the University of Mary Washington campus. But inside the University Center, warmth and camaraderie emanated from students who took part in UMW’s MLK Day of Service.
“During these times of isolation and challenge, it’s so great to see people come together for an important cause,” said sophomore Nathan Francis, a member of the student-run Community Outreach and Resources, or COAR.
That organization teamed up with UMW’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE) and James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC) to plan the event, held annually in January to commemorate the birth and contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. More than 80 Mary Washington students participated in service projects, sewing scarves and blankets for local schoolchildren, sorting donations for the Bookmobile and preparing materials for a Fairy Godmother Project fundraiser for pediatric cancer. They made reusable grocery bags for the Fredericksburg Food Co-op and organized goods for the Eagle Resource Closet. A team of volunteers also braved the cold to clear tree limbs and branches along the nearby Canal Path.
JFMC Director Marion Sanford welcomed students with a quote from Dr. King. “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”
In 1994, the U.S. Congress designated Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a National Day of Service. Rather than just a day off of work, Americans are encouraged to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy through acts of volunteerism.
At Mary Washington, service is an important part of campus life, CCE Faculty Director Leslie Martin said. “Events like this also give students the opportunity to learn about UMW’s community partners and to help them with the challenges they face.”
Sophomore Alex Mills signed up to help Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault by making teal ribbons for survivors. “Many people think that volunteering isn’t worth their time, but my experience reiterated for me that even the smallest act of kindness can have a huge impact.”
A biology major enrolled in UMW’s pre-health track, Charlotte Russell is currently shadowing a physical therapist at Mary Washington Hospital. She donated her time, creating Jared Boxes filled with small toys, art supplies, games and other activities to entertain young patients. “I hope it will bring some cheer to them and their families during this stressful time.”
Junior Jalen White made personal hygiene kits for Empowerhouse, a local organization that supports domestic violence victims. She also pitched in with a project for Micah Hospitality Center, helping to bag 400 lunches for Fredericksburg’s homeless community.
Her favorite part of the day? “All of the volunteers bonding with each other while creating something that will help so many people.”