A day “on”—USF-style

While many schools and organizations recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a day off from the job or class, the University of Saint Francis makes it a day “on”—as in carrying on with the Franciscan tradition of service in honor of Dr. King’s legacy of compassion, tolerance and equality for all.

Monday, Jan. 21 proved no exception, as students, faculty and staff spread across the city to participate in service projects for organizations and agencies serving disadvantaged local residents. Center for Service Engagement Director Katrina Boedeker estimated around 180 of the USF community engaged in service at 13 sites, such as the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission, Love Community Center, Vincent Village and the Associated Churches Food Bank, after the university’s call to service gathering.

“Of particular note is a long-term partnership between USF’s F-8 photo club and Vincent Village, which yields opportunities for families who receive assistance through Vincent Village to pose for and receive family photo portraits on MLK Day,” Boedeker said.

Rebecca Coleman, Department of Social Work chair, worked to sort food at the Associated Churches Food Bank on Wayne Street with a group of 17 USF students, faculty and staff members. “The frigid temperatures chilled us to the bone, but the food bank manager Christino Alvarez quickly warmed our hearts with his light-hearted sense of humor,” Coleman said. “Our task for the day: Sort the remaining canned goods donated by the Fort Wayne community during the holiday “Stuff the Bus” campaign. Sort we did! Everyone worked hard, laughed heartily and developed new relationships as we divided seven huge pallets of canned goods into smaller boxes.”

The rewards were intangible but lasting. “At the end of our time, Chris thanked us because we came to serve, not just volunteer. In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, we provided a service out of a desire to help promote the well-being of others. Our experience was truly “a day on in service to community,” and not just a day off from classes. In true Franciscan tradition, we served our Church, our community and one another.

Dan Torlone, chair of the Department of Education, worked with a group at Love Community Center on East Berry Street, on a project now in its fifth year. “We were initially overwhelmed by the magnitude of organizing clothing and other donated items for LCC’s store for the needy,” he said. After organizing the process, “All 10 volunteers kept moving at a steady pace for two and a half hours, sorting, stacking and otherwise making order of a chaotic jumble of donated goods. Students took the initiative and set the pace, sometimes challenging the adults to keep up with them.”

The impact wasn’t lost on USF’s students and volunteers. “One student commented to me that the benefit of doing such work is that we better understand from hands-on experience the blessings we have and the struggles others face on a daily basis,” Torlone said. “I noticed that very little goes unused. Even pieces of clothing or household goods that I would normally discard are kept as potential merchandise for LCC Store’s customers. It was a great day, indeed.”

Service projects at the USF North Campus throughout the day included making blankets for Project Linus, which aids children who are sick and hospitalized; crocheting and knitting warm winter wear for those in need for the Warm Fuzzies Project; and making pet beds for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control.

Other USF MLK events included an interdisciplinary roundtable, “Why You Should Care about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” and the presentation, “An Evening with Coretta Scott King,” on Jan. 23. On Jan. 24, “A Celebration of African-American Art and Literature took place in Achatz Hall atrium.

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