Two-hundred GW students painted, cleaned and organized the largest homeless shelter in the United States in celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service Monday.
Sponsored by the Office of Community Service and the Multicultural Student Services Center, students helped renovate the Community for Creative Non-Violence, a center in Northwest D.C. that houses more than 1,300 residents.
“What Dr. King said was very simple,” said CCNV staff member Hosie Bryant, in a speech to the volunteers. “Look around the room and you will see his dream unfolding.”
Instead of relaxing on the holiday, student volunteers sorted canned foods, organized clothing donations, dusted rooms, mopped floors and painted walls.
“The main question is not ‘why?’ but ‘why not?'” senior Janaiha Nelson said. “Why not volunteer if you have the opportunity to experience this today?”
OCS split students into groups with teams named after ideals promoted by King including trust, fellowship and joy. In addition to working together, teams reflected on their service experiences before leaving the center.
“One-time service events are important because they are a springboard to ongoing service and social advocacy,” said OCS Director Timothy Kane.
Kane added that the OCS regularly sends smaller groups to the shelter and to D.C. Central Kitchen, which is housed in the same facility.
The GW group worked alongside a 500-person group working with Mayor Adrian Fenty and Serve D.C., a commission that promotes volunteerism in the city.
Fenty proclaimed Monday the MLK Day of Service and encouraged all D.C. residents to participate. The day began with a kickoff rally and march to CCNV.
Twenty-thousand volunteers participated in 150 service projects during the three-day weekend, a Serve D.C representative said.
“It’s really cool to see all these people here giving back in a tangible way and not just furthering their own goals,” sophomore Thomas Richards said. “Especially since today we are commemorating someone who made change by working and not resting on days off.”
In 1994, Congress passed legislation encouraging Martin Luther King Day to be observed as a day of community service. President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush celebrated the day by volunteering at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library. They talked to children there about King’s life, and they shelved books.
In a live multimedia performance called “King’s Dream” Tuesday, faculty and staff listened to music, narrative, and film footage describing Martin Luther King Jr. and the times he lived in. Wednesday, also as part of MLK’s 2008 celebration, there was a panel discussion called “Contemporary Christian Perspectives on Judaism, Jews and Israel.”
There will be an MLK Award Program Tuesday, honoring five students and one faculty member who have shown a commitment to community service. University President Steven Knapp will speak at the ceremony.