A day of service

Jan. 19, 2014 @ 11:04 PM

Across Durham today – as across the region and the nation – hundreds of people will celebrate the day off for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday by spending a “day on.”

They will be spending, that is, the day on doing good works.  Over the years, the concept of this holiday as a “day of service” has taken hold, capturing the urge to do good and channeling it into dozens of outlets.

Today will see young and old alike embarked on projects, recruited and encouraged by groups such as the United Way of the Greater Triangle, the Volunteer Center of Durham, neighborhood groups, private businesses and our three higher-learning institutions.

As April Dudash reports in a story on the front page of today’s Herald-Sun, college students will be channeling a good deal of their youthful energy and idealism into today’s activities. So, to, will countless younger students devoting some time in a cherished day off from school by volunteering. Carolina Friends School, for example, for years has not taken a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, but instead focuses the day’s activities on community work.

Deborah Bailey, N. C. Central University’s director of community service learning, captured the sentiment of her students and their counterparts at Duke University and Durham Technical Community College.

“Our model is truth and service,” Bailey told Dudash for today’s story.
“This is what we do. And to see our students really respond, to basically say, ‘This is who we are, we are here to get our education, our education is, yes, inside the classroom, but our education is connecting with the community.’ To see them rise up and say this is important to us.”

Among the projects students undertake today will be readying the new food pantry at NCCU for opening as soon as next month. Students will partner with Habitat for Humanity to renovate a room in the Dent Human Sciences Building.

NCCU students also will speak with 7- to 12-year-old McDougald Terrace girls about self-worth and responsibility. Duke and Durham Tech students, among other projects, will be on the Durham Tech campus packing meals for the Million Meals project.

Some ongoing good works will bet a boost from today’s surge, such as the food drive at E. K. Powe Elementary School. Like the NCCU students for whom the food pantry will help stave off hunger, some E.K. Powe students depend on the food drive.

“There is no more direct way that you can impact the health of a hungry child,” volunteer Helen Compton said. “Whatever you can donate goes straight into the hands of a kid that needs it.”

According to the federal government’s Day of Service website, King once said "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'"

We salute the volunteers helping to feed hungry children and benefitting the community in myriad other ways today in answer to that question.