ACU Students Serve Others on MLK Jr. National Day of Service
By LORETTA FULTON
About 80 Abilene Christian University students honored the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday in a way that he certainly would have approved of.
Instead of taking a day off on the holiday set aside to honor King, the students spread out over Abilene Monday morning to do community service work for three agencies–Christian Service Center, AISD Homeless Student Ministry, and Highland Food Pantry.
“Dr. King was all about service,” said Yana Hendricks, a graduate social work student from Nigeria, who was helping clean glass and other surfaces that attract dirt and germs. She was joined by Kimberly Rempel and Megan Irwin in the cleaning tasks. They were among about 10 ACU students who volunteered at Christian Service Center, while another 70 were divided between the other two agencies.
In 1994, Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act, designating the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday as a national day of service. King was born Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, and was assassinated April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. The annual holiday falls on the Monday closest to his birthday.
While Hendricks, Rempel, and Irwin attacked the grime that had built up, other ACU student volunteers helped with the clothing area or packaged adult diapers to donate to nursing homes.
“They’re sorting through things we don’t have time to do,” said Jim Clark, executive director of Christian Service Center, which provides clothing and other assistance to those in need.
The center’s lobby is closed all week due to COVID concerns, although people are being helped by phone. The deep cleaning was in response to a spike in COVID cases.
Monday’s service projects were organized by the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at ACU, chaired by Lynette Austin. The department is part of the College of Education & Human Services, with Jennifer Shewmaker as dean. Both women were helping out Monday morning at Christian Service Center.
“This is her project,” Austin said.
Similar projects were held on MLK Jr. Day in 2019 and 2020. Like many other events, the service day was canceled in 2021 due to COVID, but a donation drive was held in its place.
Erika Rodriguez, a junior history and Spanish major from Mission, Texas, and Zoe Vaughn, a junior psychology major from Wylie, Texas, near Dallas, were going through the many racks of clothing and culling out hangers with no clothes on them.
“I just thought it would be nice to give back to the community,” Rodriguez said.
The work wasn’t exactly challenging but needed to be done. Both students thought it significant to serve on the day set aside to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“I feel very inspired by many of the things he had to say,” Vaughn said.
Doing the literal dirty work were Hendricks, Rempel, and Irwin. Rempel and Irwin are both education majors. Their education classes stress serving the students beyond teaching, Rempel said. Not much attention was paid to MLK Jr. Day in her hometown of Paris, Texas, so Rempel was glad for the opportunity to honor him.
“I think it’s good to draw attention back to what Martin Luther King stood for,” she said.
Irwin, also an education major, said that as a follower of Jesus, she is compelled to share the hope she has with others. So, when she saw an email about helping others through donating her time and energy to Christian Service Center on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, she responded immediately.
“It was a cool opportunity,” she said.
Jim Clark, executive director of Christian Service Center, said college students frequently donate their time to helping the center, which frees up employees to do their jobs. It also is an opportunity for the students to see Christ’s love in action, he said. Student volunteers are welcomed at anytime, Clark said, but serving on Martin Luther King Jr. Day is especially meaningful.
“We love the idea of the beloved community that Dr. King talked about,” he said.
Loretta Fulton is creator and editor of Spirit of Abilene