Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’”
On Jan. 26, Grand Valley State University will answer that question by participating in the National Day of Service initiative right here in the West Michigan community as part of the university’s Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week.
The event will be lead by four staff members and six interns, with about 100 students participating said Eric Stevens, who coordinates Service and Leadership Initiatives for GVSU’s Community Service Learning Center.
“Around 100 students are sacrificing their Saturday mornings (when they could be sleeping) to make a difference in the Grand Rapids area,” Stevens said.
Volunteers will divide and conquer, with some sorting food donations and learning about hunger in the area at Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank and the other at Comprenew Environmental, where students will break down old computers to be recycleded versus tossed in a garbage dump.
“The students will benefit from the practical knowledge that they will be discussing on hunger, poverty and environmental issues,” Stevens said. “We hope that students do not just show up and serve at these (organizations), but that they are willing to ask difficult questions in order to grow and better think critically about the core issues involved in the service itself.”
These kind of events, Stevens said, benefits not only the nonprofits students volunteer for, but also benefits the students, who forge a much deeper relationship with GVSU and the surrounding community.
“Events like these strengthen the bond between Grand Valley and the surrounding communities,” Stevens said. “It really helps demonstrate that Lakers give back.”
GVSU’s participation in the MLK Day of Service is a fairly new tradition, but is one that the CSLC hopes will continue to grow annually and involve more GVSU community members outside of the classroom.
“The MLK Day of Service has not been taking place for that long, but is now definitely an annual event,” Stevens said. “We hope that next year we will be able to expand beyond 100 students (and) we would also like to encourage more faculty and staff members to participate in the day of service.”
The CSLC sponsors many service events throughout the year, and will also have two smaller service crafting projects on GVSU’s campus on Monday, Jan. 21, Stevens said.
“There are lots of other service opportunities available (on the CSLC’s website) outside of this Day of Service as well,” Stevens said. “We expect to have 100 participants for our service projects, (and) Alternative Breaks will also be doing a service Saturday morning, and will be joining us for lunch and a guest speaker upon everyone’s return. Overall, around 250 students will be out serving our community on (Jan. 26).”
The Martin Luther King Jr. International Day of Service is a part of United We Serve, the President’s national call to service initiative, according to MLKDay.gov. The day is meant to inspire people across America to “honor Dr. King’s legacy through service” by volunteering their services for those less fortunate in their own communities.
To sign up for the service projects on Jan. 21 or Jan. 26, or to check out other projects that the CSLC is participating in, visit www.gvsu.edu/service.