MLK: service day, not holiday

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  • MLK Day of service has become an annual event at UNI, organized by the Service Leadership Council.

  • Students volunteer inside the Maucker Union Ballroom during Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2016. The event is hosted by SLC.

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Although the holiday season has come to a close, “the season of giving” is always in full bloom, according to Jasmine Beecham, a Service and Leadership Council (SLC) executive member. SLC will be holding their annual day of service on Martin Luther King Jr. day so students have the opportunity to give back to the community, even on their day off from classes. This year, hundreds of volunteers are expected to flock to the Maucker Union Ballroom and pack 44,000 meals for the Northeast Iowa Food bank on Jan. 16.

SLC is an on-campus organization at UNI that promotes service opportunities like the popular “Volunteer Tuesdays,” where students travel to various volunteering opportunities around the Cedar Valley. SLC also holds “Stop and Serve” events, which provides brief, on-campus volunteer opportunities working on service projects focused on a variety of social issues.

SLC also held a food packing event last year for their MLK Day of Service, and it was such a huge success that they decided to do it again this year, according to Beecham.

“We had support through other SLC committees, our advisors, as well as Lauren Finke representing the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley and the Northeast Iowa Food Bank,” Beecham said. “With such a large turn-out last year and such positive feedback, we decided to try food packaging again.”

The event is being coordinated with Outreach, a non-profit corporation that organizes food packaging events around the country. Their mission is to provide food, safe water, education and medical care to those in need at home and abroad.

According to Beecham, everyone at Outreach has been more than happy to help support SLC to make this year’s event twice as big as last year’s. Something that will make the event even more special is that a UNI alumni, Bryan Coffey, has been working directly with the event through Outreach and expressed how happy he is that UNI is hosting this event right on campus.

According to Beecham, the organization’s goal is to have over 250 volunteers at the event and to package over 44,000 meals that go straight to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank. The event is also open to community members, and Beecham stressed that “the more volunteers, the merrier.”

Ashley Adams, advisor of the Campus Activities Board (CAB) and a strong advocate for the Service and Leadership Council, shared why students should take advantage of this volunteer opportunity. According to Adams, this event will be a great way to give back to the Cedar Falls community and give students a chance to walk in somebody else’s shoes.

“There are students right here at UNI that go to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank, so you wouldn’t just be giving back to the Cedar Valley community, but also UNI students specifically,” Adams said.

Beecham also made the point that although college students may not always have the money to give to those in need, they can always give the gift of their time.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’” Beecham said. “We can come together on this holiday to serve our neighbors and community. We can show our ability for greatness through our actions of service.”