Students dedicate time at MLK Day of Caring

MaryAnn Willoughby, a picture framer, assists a high school student with knitting on a loom during the Hillel MLK Day of Service on Monday, Jan. 16, 2016 . Students and members of the community had the opportunity to come and participate in some fun while doing service for various causes such as Bowling with Special Needs individuals and Knitting for Those in Need.

Emma Keating

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Kent State’s Hillel held an all-day series of service opportunities for those interested in giving back to the community.

The university’s Office of Civic Engagement and Education partnered with Hillel to host the annual Day of Caring, allowing students to choose how they want to volunteer. 

Beginning early in the morning and lasting into the afternoon, Hillel organized a “day on” — instead of a “day off” — to “serve the needs of others and (model) what Dr. King stood for,” according to the event’s information page.

Alex Simmons, a senior managerial marketing major, volunteered for the second year in a row. She knit hats for Knitting For Those In Need, an organization that provides hats, scarves, and other knitted items for homeless individuals.

“You spend your day off doing something nice, you know?” Simmons said. “You start your semester off on a positive note.”

Diane Baldridge, who created Knitting For Those In Need while she was a student in 2010, said this organization has touched the lives of many.

“One year when I was a student still, a fellow student came up and he said, ‘I really appreciate what you guys are doing. I can’t tell you how much it means to me. I was homeless. I know what this is like,’” she said.

Alexandra Brown, a junior nutrition major who came back a second year to help host the day’s events, said the MLK Day of Service changed her entire career path.

“At first I wanted to do sports nutritions, but after this I want to do community nutrition,” Brown said. “People are living in impoverished areas and food deserts. So I want to help those areas, and helping those that are suffering verses helping those who are already well off.

Brown said that volunteering has enabled her to talk to more people and be more open-minded.

“Some people have gone through different experiences (that) makes them look at (volunteering) differently,” Brown said. “And hearing their background story makes me look at it differently too.”

Marissa Stephens, a junior managerial marketing major, also helped host the day’s events.

“I know I want to give back and help those around me, and give what I have,” Stephens said. “If you can give a few hours a day that could be enough.”

Stephens volunteers with POWERCorps every year, an organization that provides recreational activities and support to adults living with disabilities.

“It’s shaped who I am today … the person I want to be, and the person I hope other people want to be,” she said.

Kiera Drymalski, a senior business management major, has volunteered with POWERCorps for four years in a row. She said the volunteering experience is like no other.

“You get to see your impact right away,” Drymalski said. “Other people, you know, they box clothes for Goodwill or they help serve food to people and that’s what a lot of people think as typical service. A lot of people don’t think it as just hanging out with someone and making a really big impact on their life.”

Rose Wilson, who works for POWERCorps, said that members of the group love coming to Kent State and being with other young adults.

“They have to be 18 to come to PowerCore, and some of them are still in their little shell,” Wilson said. “And then to see them come out here … They really blossom.”

Emma Keating is an assigning editor, contact her at [email protected]