More than 200 university students carried on the legacies of Martin Luther King Jr. and other Civil Rights Movement workers when they spent five hours volunteering at Red Cross and Feed the Children, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper told the group.
“(King) visited Nashville not to give inspiration but to gain inspiration. That is the single greatest compliment that any community ever could be paid,” U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper said before they began their service projects. His brief speech highlighted the works of King, U.S. Rep. John Lewis and other Nashville students who marched throughout town and held sit-ins during the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement. “Thank you for carrying on Dr. King’s dream, even though we have not reached it today.”
The students from Belmont, Tennessee State and Lipscomb Universities gathered Jan. 14 at the American Red Cross of Middle Tennessee to celebrate and honor King through a day of community service. The MLK Day of Service is a nationally recognized event intended to empower individuals, strengthen communities, bridge barriers, create solutions to social problems and move individuals closer to Dr. King’s vision of a beloved community.
“Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spent most of his time serving others. Belmont, TSU and Lipscomb University are collaborating together once again to bring together people in the community as well as students who might not ordinarily meet or work together to honor his legacy,” said Summer Elliott, community partnership resource coordinator for Belmont’s Center for Social Entrepreneurship and Service-Learning.
The Corporation for National and Community Service awarded the universities a $1,000 grant to complete the two service projects. At the Red Cross, students prepared comfort kits, small packets with personal hygiene products that are given to victims of a disaster. They also organized Red Cross offices and loaded disaster relief trucks. At Feed the Children, students packed food, toiletries and cleaning supplies to be distributed to needy areas.
“I come from a low-income family and people gave to me my whole life,” said Belmont junior Gabrielle Hampton. “I think it is important for me to give back.”
Belmont students, faculty and staff also had the most participation in a Sharing Spree Nashville drive that raised $1,250 for the joint day of service projects, said Sharing Spree Director of Community Relations Charity L. Toombs.
“When coming together to apply for the grant for this service day, it was very important to us to incorporate the spirit of volunteerism we saw after Nashville’s 2010 floods. Nationwide Americans unify and respond when disaster strikes, and we wanted the students at all three universities to be a part of that, so we specifically chose disaster-related charities to work at during the MLK Service Day,” said John Williams, Lipscomb’s program assistant for the Serving and Learning Together (SALT) Program.
Ginger Hausser, assistant director for the Center of Service Learning and Civic Engagement at TSU, said “The Second Annual MLK Joint Day of Service will allow students from different walks of life to collaboratively make a difference for a community just as diverse as each of the universities participating. TSU along with Belmont and Lipscomb will each provide 70 students to fight for disaster relief and preparedness. The completion of this project should leave students with a sense of satisfaction, true service and greater insight into the many attributes associated with disaster management. Our goal is for students gain a broader understanding of the challenges disaster victims all around the world face.”