By sweeping floors, cleaning shelves and spending time at an assisted living facility, more than 100 community members and Franklin College students and staff helped continue the mission that Martin Luther King Jr. began decades ago.
They spent the day volunteering across Franklin as part of the National Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, which encourages people nationwide to help in their communities. Volunteers were sent to 11 spots throughout Franklin, such as Franklin Memorial Christian Church, Franklin United Methodist Community and the Interchurch Food Pantry. The college also organized a march and had a keynote speaker Monday night.
“The slogan for the national holiday is ‘A day on, not a day off;’ so it encourages people to give back,” Franklin College coordinator Terri Roberts-Leonard said.
Students organized and cleaned books at the Johnson County Public Library and swept buildings at the Indiana Masonic Home, while other community members spent time with residents at Morning Pointe assisted living.
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With the help, tasks that have been pushed aside can be completed, local organizations said.
The workers at local agencies and facilities already have so much work to do, and some of the other projects can get ignored until a volunteer is available, said Sheila Poland, Indiana Masonic Home director of leisure services.
Two volunteers were sent to the grounds department at the retirement center, where grounds supervisor Phil Radcliffe said he could always use more help. The grounds department has to maintain more than 70 acres, and he has three full-time employees to get everything done from day-to-day.
With the help of the two volunteers, they were able to sweep the garage and do bigger deep-cleaning chores that they otherwise wouldn’t have time to do, he said.
At Morning Pointe assisted living in Franklin, college staff and faculty members played volleyball and worked on crafts with the residents. The volunteers brought out the energy, creativity and competitive spirit of the residents, life enrichment director Mary Beth Pilard said.
“If you only knew how awesome it is. I’m a one-person department, so to try and pull a craft off with people, you need multiple hands,” Pilard said. “We have had more laughing and carrying on today than we have on a daily basis.”
Pilard typically tries to complete a craft with the residents about once a month, but usually not with 10 residents at a time. With the help from the college, everyone got individual attention. Some volunteers used their time to glean wisdom from the Morning Pointe residents, like marriage advice, Pilard said.
Some Franklin College professors decided to have their classes participate in the day of service, instead of staying in the classroom, including one class that focuses on inequality and justice in U.S. history.
“It’s important for us to pay homage to Dr. King and to spend some time in service. That really adds to our reflection of his legacy, and it adds to our study of civil rights and history,” assistant professor Alli Fetter-Harrott said.
Her class also attended a speech by Terri Hurdle, who is a diversity educator at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati. Hurdle used King’s book “Why We Can’t Wait” to bring King’s ideas into the 21st century.
To prepare for celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Fetter-Harrott’s students took a field trip to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, which portrays what life was like through slaves’ eyes prior to being freed. The students were able to see the equality that King was working toward and that everyone needs to improve the community they’re in, said professor Meredith Clark-Wiltz, who teaches with Fetter-Harrott.
“We think of this service as a very appropriate, connected way of showing individuals in the community, and in this building, our approach to (avoid) regress,” Clark-Wiltz said. “We see this as sort of a civic social responsibility.”
King’s work is not finished, Franklin College freshman Brittny Balog said.
“A lot of people think the story ended with desegregation of schools and things like that, but really the story and the fight is still continuing today,” she said.
For Franklin sophomore Moda Nyema, getting an opportunity to give back is something important to her, based on her upbringing.
“I grew up in Liberia, West Africa, where we didn’t have much, and we didn’t really have people giving us stuff. So now that I’m fortunate, I just think it’s important to help (others),” she said.
Nyema sorted movies in the Indiana Masonic Home’s media room, which was something that no one on staff typically has the time to do, Poland said.
“They take on these projects that nobody has time for, and they can get things done twice as quick,” she said.