MLK Jr. Service Day activities On and off campus

Kalyn Hayslett, Editor-in-Chief


The Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteerism and the Douglas Hart Nature Center will offer service projects that echo Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and help members in the community.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deserves to be considered, he deserves to be honored, he deserved to be remembered and there is no better way to do that than by giving back to others,” Gillespie said.

During the introduction, volunteers will be asked to recite different parts of the “I Have A Dream” speech that will then lead to a brief reflection and discussion of Dr. King Jr.’s legacy.

After eight years of creating volunteer projects for students, the volunteerism office tries to reinvent new meaningful tasks every year to keep it interesting for students, Crystal Brown, assistant director, said.

This year students can create “love bugs,” by decorating pinecones with googly eyes, pipe cleaners and colorful felt sheets.

“We try to think of new service projects that are fun and creative, so students are not doing the same things every year but are also intentional and are making a difference in whatever population those projects are going to in the community,” Brown said.

The “love bugs” will be donated to the official St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis so children can have a safe gift for Valentine’s Day, Beth Gillespie, director of civic engagement and volunteerism, said.

“We can’t send things like a stuffed animal — that’s just one example — but these love bugs are cute, they’re friendly and it’s (the) perfect time for Valentine’s Day,” Gillespie said. “Hopefully it will make one of those kids smile and let them know that we are thinking of them and are hoping for good days.”

Other new projects include building recipe books that will be given to local food pantries and writing encouraging messages on postcards for prospective students.

Each recipe book will contain 40 recipes, about half the size of a notebook, all using ingredients that are found in local food pantries.

“If you’re on a limited budget and you have limited skills or you just need a new idea on how to prepare something, hopefully those recipe cards will come in handy,” Gillespie said.

The volunteerism office worked with a graphic designer to create a personalized postcard with photos of students doing a range of different service projects.

“We wanted to have our students tell other students why they love being here, why they love having Eastern be a place they call home because, we think it would resonate more with incoming students than it would if Crystal or I were sending these post cards,” Gillespie said.

The other service projects include creating school supply kits for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Illinois, helping organize merchandise for Standing Stone Community Center, and decorating flowerpots and bird feeders for senior citizens.

The service will last from noon to 3 p.m. in the University Ballroom of the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union. Students can register by going to the Civic Engagement and Volunteerism Office home page and fill out the form, but groups of more than 10 need to email [email protected].

If students prefer to volunteer off campus, the Douglas Hart Nature Center will offer two service projects: a conservation project and an education project.

The project from 10 a.m. to noon involves preparing the greenhouse for spring. Each volunteer will be given a rack of a 100 “cone-tainers” where they will pack soil in the ice cream-shaped planters.

Dakota Radford, Douglas Hart Nature Center volunteer coordinator, said the volunteers do not need prior experience to help with the conservation project and are welcome to watch the plant develop and eventually dig the hole in the forest in the spring.

The education project will take place from 1 to 3 p.m., where volunteers can help place new labels on the books in the library and reorganize the shelves.

The Douglas Hart Nature Center has proximately 1,000 books ranging in genres: kid novels, survival guides, crafts books and teacher books.

This year the center will develop an online catalog where community members can search the books from their home, thanks to volunteer librarian Diana Glosser, who has devoted hours to help, Radford said.

“We will use it as a sounding board to see what they think an ultimate library would look like,” Radford said.

All students, community members and faculty can volunteer, give feedback and improve the community, Radford said.

“These projects are supportive of the community,” Radford said. “You are really being a positive change to the world (and) actually give back to the community.”

Kalyn Hayslett can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].