MLK Service Day helps local nonprofits

Allison Ribick

Grand Valley State University students will have the opportunity to engage in a service opportunity in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 24 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The national day of service is part of Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week at GVSU. The Community Service Learning Center and the MLK Week Executive Planning Committee are sponsors for the event.

Students will meet in the Grand River Room in the Kirkhof Center before heading to volunteer at various nonprofits in the Grand Rapids area. Students will learn about the Civil Rights Movement, ways they can impact their community and how to make social change.

“(MLK) was a big proponent of services to others,” said Laura Murnen, a graduate assistant for service initiatives in the Office of Student Life and coordinator of the event. “The event is really focusing on that service learning proponent, trying to build that awareness of how is your service impacting the community, how are you living up to MLK’s legacy – really it’s a neat program, in that sense.”

Once students meet and sign in, they will split up into three groups and travel with site leaders to three worksites: Rays of Hope International, Grandville Arts and Humanities in the Cook Library and Mel Trotter Ministries.

Rays of Hope International is a ministry organization that ships essential resources and is involved in projects to help provide countries in need with clean water, medical supplies, food and education.

In the Cook Library at the Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities, students will help set up an event for younger members of the community, which involves a discussion on being more aware of stereotypes in our society and being more open minded.

Mel Trotter Ministries offers meals, homeless shelters and various programs like counseling, job training and transitional housing for individuals in the Grand Rapids area.

“We’re really focusing on civic mindedness,” Murnen said. “We made specific learning outcomes and we really looked for nonprofits that could speak to that.”

Following these service projects, GVSU history professor Louis Moore will speak about Martin Luther King Jr. and the importance of volunteering.

“It’s kind of what Martin says, is that there has to be better human relations between us – and volunteering helps breaks that down,” Moore said. “It’s also suggesting there’s only so much legislation that can be passed to help people, so at a certain point, humans have to be involved on that lower level and interconnect with each other and help each other out.”

Moore spoke of the newly released movie “Selma,” which shows how people volunteered their time, talent, bodies and efforts in order for African Americans to vote without restrictions or obstacles.

“I think you see that a lot in today’s protests,” Moore said. “These are people who are volunteering to change society. You know, the Black Lives Matter protests – it’s not just black people, it’s everybody. They’re putting their bodies on the line to demonstrate that there’s humanity in all of us, and that’s ultimately what’s going to save us, what’s going to bring us true democracy.”

Registration for the MLK Jr. Day of Service is full, but walk-ins will be accepted the day of, pending space.

For other volunteer opportunities, visit the CSLC’s website at

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