Volunteers memorialize MLK through community service

Donning hats and gloves on a chilly Saturday morning, more than 200 GW students joined other college volunteers to help a D.C. shelter in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The students, led by project coordinators, visited a service center run by the Center for Creative Non-Violence, a non-profit organization that houses, feeds and cares for up to 2,500 poor and homeless people daily. The Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service is celebrated at various times around the civil rights leader’s holiday every year in D.C. and nationwide. GW participation was coordinated by the Office of Community Service, which participates in the day of service every January.

Several of the volunteers prepared and cooked meals for the D.C. Central Kitchen, a food bank run in the non-violence center. Others painted doors and washed walls in the living areas for poor and homeless in the center.

More than 70 women were staying at the shelter’s designated female-only floor. There is also a men’s floor, but students were told not to disturb those staying at the center. Living quarters range from private rooms to large spaces with cubicle-style dividers for living spaces.

Mike Tapscott, director of GW’s Multicultural Student Services, gave a presentation about what the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service means to the community. Tapscott paralleled the civil rights leader’s mission with the students’ work at the center.

“King established values and principles to the community of the world … One of the principles I’ve taken from him is being thankful,” Tapscott said. “Students who don’t share in these experiences (of community service) will leave GW unprepared.”

For some, community service is more than just the physical work. Freshman Kyle Boyer said he appreciates the friendships gained through service.

“I like that community service allows you to meet and interact with people that you cannot find on campus and it helps you realize that no matter where we come from we all share things in common,” Boyer said.

Laura Harrington, a freshman who works with Jumpstart at GW, was happy to be participating in the King service opportunity, but worries whether she is in a minority of GW students who participate in service events throughout the year.

“I feel like not enough people give back at GW,” she said. Jumpstart is a service program at GW in which students tutor D.C. children; work-study students are paid for participating.

Members of the non-violence center staff joined students in painting cleaning.

Corliss “Coco” Franklin, the Center for Creative Non-Violence’s interim floor director, said she enjoys seeing students volunteer.

“(I love) the smiling faces of all the young ones … I don’t know if they know that they put a smile on mine,” Franklin said.

The 10-year community service veteran said she was extremely thankful for all of the groups that have volunteered at the center over the years.

“We’ve had students from right here in D.C. and students from even Princeton (University in New Jersey),” she said. “But it don’t matter where they’re from, they’re all a huge help.”n

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