While most GW students spent their day off Monday catching up on sleep or reading, others paid tribute to the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by helping the less fortunate.
Volunteers worked at Benning Terrace, a predominantly black public housing community in Southeast D.C. that is the target of a city revitalization effort.
“This is not just about poverty and oppression in Southeast,” said Dormetria Robinson, a minister at the First Rock Baptist Church. “We are called to come together and serve everywhere in a vision Dr. Martin Luther King had.”
The day’s projects included landscaping deteriorated sections of the community, re-painting seven housing units, painting a children’s mural and organizing various activities for children to participate in throughout the day.
More than half of the 300 people working were affiliated with GW. Members of AmeriCorps, sports teams and churches, among other groups, also worked.
GW Multicultural Student Services Center, Office of Community Service and Student Association Diversity Affairs committee partnered with 22 other organizations in organizing the event.
This is the third year GW has participated in Martin Luther King Service Day.
“I wanted to get involved; I have never really done anything to recognize this day. I realize how important it is to help others,” sophomore Matt Cohen said.
Besides cleaning the neighborhood, volunteers helped run educational programs for children and adults. Children could participate in “King’s Corner,” which had books, crossword puzzles and videos about King’s life.
Adults could attend workshops on career, health and race issues.
“This project has expanded. Last year we were just working on one building,” said Shyrea Thompson, of GW’s Office of Community Service. “This year we are covering a few blocks, a few buildings.”
Three Washington Capitals players also volunteered by painting a children’s mural in one of the few public community buildings in the Benning Terrace neighborhood. The building will serve children and sports teams.
“Martin Luther King did a lot for minorities, and as a minority I want to help out the community, give back to those who help support us,” Capitals player Jason Doig said.
Some students volunteered last year and decided to help out again.
“D.C. needs this more than any other city. We get to help out kids while enjoying ourselves, which is why I came back,” sophomore Colin Christopher said.
Other students said they enjoyed their first time working on the holiday.
“Normally I am sleeping in on this day, but this year I decided it would be better to help out the city and other people,” freshman Adenike Olanrewaju said.
Several cities across the country, including New York and Philadelphia, also held events for Martin Luther King Service Day.