MLK Day of Service crowd


Sophomore health promotion major Ellie Herzberg seals a packaged meal. Herzberg attended the event with other members of the women’s basketball team, which was one of the many campus groups to volunteer their time.

JACOB MADDEN, News Editor | [email protected]

While many students enjoyed a day off on Monday, over 300 volunteers spent a day “on” according to sophomore leisure, youth and human services major and director of the Days of Service committee on the UNI Service and Leadership Council, Shelby Yates.

“Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service is a national event,” said Yates. “Making a day off, a ‘day on.’”

The event kicked off in the Maucker Union Ballroom with a handful of speakers reminding everyone in attendance the reason why they were there.

Lauren Fink, representative from the Volunteer Center of the Cedar Valley, was the first to speak, followed by Barbara Prather from the Northeast Iowa Food Bank. Finally, former UNI professor and former director of the Center for Multicultural Education, Michael Blackwell, spoke about the vision of Martin Luther King Jr. as an active vision for a progressive future.

Blackwell emphasized the importance of taking initiatives such as the MLK Day of Service beyond just one day and working to affect as many people as possible. After the speakers finished, the volunteers moved on to activities, starting with packaging meals.

The goal of the day was to package 25,000 meals of soy, macaroni and cheese powder for food insecure households in Iowa, according to Yates.

Yates explained that all meals packaged on Monday would be going to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank to help people in communities like Cedar Falls.

The number of volunteers has nearly doubled since 2014, according to Yates, who reported that 175 people volunteered in 2014.

Multiple campus groups attended the event in organized numbers, including: the tennis club and the women’s basketball team. The Salt Company also attended, with  70 members present, according to senior accounting and finance major, Mitch Van Es.

There were a number familiar faces, with President Bill Ruud and his wife, Judy, in attendance, as well as Miss Iowa Taylor Wiebers and NISG president, Katie Evans. When volunteers weren’t packaging meals, they were experiencing what Yates called a ‘hunger simulation’ and discussing the issue of hunger on the main floor of Maucker Union.

The hunger simulation meal included one cup of rice and one half cup of beans.

According to Yates, this is “the average meal for food insecure people who receive help.”

Van Es said that he was surprised at “how small it was and [how] they don’t get it very often.” Van Es discussed hunger with fellow Salt Company members senior, Jake Kuesel; junior, Trevor Heimbaugh and senior, Brady Ellenbecker.

Ellenbecker said that the meal was “very plain, I can see eating it because you need to, but not because you want to.”

The event featured speakers discussing the problem of hunger extensively. Yates expressed this concisely in her ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes’ model.

“We want volunteers to know local problems about hunger, feel what its like to be hungry and go out and make a difference,” said Yates.

The volunteers even made a competition out of packaging the meals the fastest, with the women’s basketball team competing against each other to fill their boxes.

The volunteers expressed an overwhelmingly positive attitude about the event.

Junior Myna Tamaka described the event, saying that it was about “ education about the world and getting involved.”

For those who missed the event or were unable to join due to the event being sold out, Yates recommended visiting the Student Leadership Council website or the Volunteer Center of the Cedar Valley for more