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The Daily Tar Heel

MLK Day for Service unites over 350 student volunteers

Senior Lindsay Smith’s mother worked during the Civil Rights era to integrate her high school.

And on Monday, to honor her legacy during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day for Service, Smith was one of hundreds of students to take an active approach to the holiday.

“The purpose of today wasn’t to sleep, but it was to honor his legacy and help others reduce injustices,” said senior Lindsay Smith, who was one of many involved during Carolina Rejuvenating Our Community Through Service’s 10th annual MLK Day for Service.

Before Smith left to refinish wooden chairs for the United Way of the Greater Triangle, she and the hundreds of other volunteers for various projects were thanked by Terri Houston, interim associate provost of diversity and multicultural affairs, for their service.

“You are about to literally change and impact someone’s life,” she said.

“The challenge that you face makes a difference to the lives that you touch.”

More than 350 student volunteers represented the highest turnout for the event in its history, said Marquise Hudson, president of the service group.

Volunteers were dispatched to 16 different sites operated by several organizations, including A Helping Hand, Meals on Wheels, Orange County Red Cross and the Ronald McDonald House.

Almost 100 student volunteers were sent to another project sponsored by the United Way at Christ United Methodist Church. They worked on various tasks including refinishing rocking chairs, restoring computers and making Valentine’s Day cards for veterans.

This is the sixth year United Way has sponsored a project. In those six years, Craig Chancellor, chief executive officer of United Way of the Greater Triangle, said the project has come a long way.

“It started small, but it’s a tremendous way to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy because this is what he’s about,” Chancellor said.

Several students volunteering at a project sponsored by A Helping Hand helped make valentines for senior citizens. Roughly 4,000 have been made already.

Cathy Ahrendsen, founder and executive director of A Helping Hand, said she was inspired by her grandmother to start a nonprofit organization 15 years ago. It has grown to serve about 400 clients each year.

These clients are usually senior citizens and disabled people.

Several of these students were a part of the UNITAS program, a living and learning community dedicated to encouraging understanding among students of diverse backgrounds.

“As a part of the living and learning community, we commemorate and continue Martin Luther King’s legacy of empowerment,” said freshman Vishalee Patel.

Senior Shuronia Johnson, a student volunteer, said she valued the ideals of Martin Luther King Jr. and expressed her desire to continue his legacy through her service.

“Since Martin Luther King did a whole lot for the community, I felt I should follow in his footsteps and give back to the community,” she said.

“I believe that a day of service should not just be today, but every day.”

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