Service day honors civil rights leader

More than 130 residents and college students will be organizing kitchen hardware, assisting senior citizens with crafts and cleaning today at organizations throughout Johnson County and Indianapolis.

Since the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service event was restarted four years ago at Franklin College, hundreds of volunteers have been sent to nonprofit organizations and companies that could use help.

Residents and students will be volunteering at 20 locations throughout Johnson County and Indianapolis today by organizing items at nonprofit organizations, such as Interchurch Food Pantry or Habitat for Humanity, cleaning at the Humane Society of Johnson County and the Historic Artcraft Theatre or spending time with residents at Franklin United Methodist Community and Morning Pointe assisted living facility.

Franklin College administrators started calling organizations in November to see if students could assist them for the day, said Doug Grant, Franklin College director of service-learning and civic engagement. Some classes have been paired with organizations that match their course subject. For example, a literacy class will be sent to the Franklin branch of the Johnson County Public Library, he said.

Franklin College Director of Diversity and Inclusion Terri Roberts, who helped restart the Day of Service years ago, was enthusiastic to bring a day of volunteerism back, since every graduating class is getting further removed from King’s lifetime and should be reminded of what he accomplished, she said. While students are volunteering their time, they can remember why King was given his own national holiday, she said.

Residents at Morning Pointe look forward to the holiday every year since they love seeing volunteers come to the assisted living facility, life enrichment director Mary Beth Piland said. Residents can only do crafts when there’s enough volunteers for each resident to have their own helper, Piland said. So with the volunteers coming, Piland knows she can schedule a challenging craft each year for the students and residents to work on together, she said.

“The residents love doing crafts, but where they’re at, they aren’t able to do them unless someone else can help one-on-one to accomplish it,” Piland said.

Directors of the Humane Society of Johnson County and Habitat for Humanity said the assistance will get the organizations days ahead in their daily tasks, such as cleaning, sorting and organizing.

Both organizations have fewer than five employees, so having multiple volunteers at once will get tasks completed that often get interrupted, Humane Society executive director Annie Sutton said.

“The day-to-day focus here is obviously our animals, but we can be so interrupted with the task at hand,” Sutton said.

For example, employees will try to deep clean an entire room where cats play, or dogs are kept overnight, but if an animal is in need, those tasks have to wait, she said. But the volunteers can complete larger tasks like sterilizing the crates used to transport animals, she said.

The nonprofit organization relies on about 3,900 volunteer hours per year to assist their three paid staff members, Sutton said.

Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore will have about 10 volunteers helping them today, director Kerri Faulkner-Hartwell said.

Although college students only will be volunteering for about three hours, their work will save days of sorting, tearing apart appliances and organizing the company’s warehouse of items for sale, Faulkner-Hartwell said.

By the numbers

Since starting the Martin Luther King, Jr., day of service in 2013, Franklin College coordinator Terri Roberts has seen the number of people participating grow each year. Here is a look at the number of volunteers each year:

2013: 56

2014: 92

2015: 103

2016: 139, but more are expected to show up

Schedule of events

People will volunteer at 20 organizations throughout Johnson County this morning, then attend four events at Franklin College to honor Martin Luther King Jr.

1 p.m. – Chapel Service, Richardson Chapel; Remembering the life and ministry of Martin Luther King Jr. with songs and spoken reflections.

3:15 p.m. – MLK Day Commemorative March; The march will start near the B.F. Hamilton Library at the Indiana Alpha gazebo and end at Richardson Chapel. The march is to honor those who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. to earn freedoms of segregation and equality.

4 p.m. – Convocation speaker, Richardson Chapel; Guest speaker Khalilah Shabaz, IUPUI director of diversity, will present a lecture about using faith to ignite change.

7 p.m. – “Selma” movie showing, Richardson Chapel