Kent State students use MLK Jr. Day to give back


Karianne Johnsen, junior advertising major, tosses a balloon with Mary Nicolino, a 98-year-old resident of Stow-Glen Retirement Home, during the Martin Luther King Jr. “Just 4 A Day” event put on by Kent State Hillel Monday, Jan. 20, 2014. It is a common exercise between the facility’s residents.

Ashlyne Wilson

Kent State students dedicated themselves Monday to a day of service in memory of Martin Luther King Jr. 

Hillel teamed up with the Office of Experiential Education & Civic Engagement to host a day of volunteering opportunities for students to help the community, “Just 4 A Day.”

The students helped the community by packing lunches, making food and moving furniture. Approximately 125 to 140 people came out to engage in a day of giving back to those less fortunate. There were 13 nonprofit organizations in Kent and the surrounding areas that were open for volunteer opportunities such as Goodwill, Haven of Rest, the Ronald McDonald House, Kent Social Services and the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. 

Ricky Marcus, Hillel’s director of Jewish Student Life, said that Hillel is using the day to provide an opportunity for students to volunteer on their day off and to show Hillel as a strong campus partner, not just as a Jewish organization. 

“I think people still view us as a synagogue or a temple on campus, and we really do so much more than that,” Marcus said. 

Marcus also said that MLK Day is a special day for Jewish people also. 

“The Jewish people have a long standing history with the Civil Rights movement. In Cleveland, one of the local rabbis marched side by side with Dr. King,” Marcus said. “It’s an important value, what he has spoken and believed in, and we believe in similar values. I believe we are doing his work.”

Jacob Rosen, the development associate for Hillel said this day is not only a day of giving back, but a day of “tikkun olam,” which is Hebrew for “repair the world.” 

Kent Social Services was one of the organizations where hot food was served to the community. According to the website, the nonprofit organization is open five days a week, offering food for 50 to 60 people a day. On this day, they made a meal of grilled cheese sandwiches, soups, fruit cocktails and cookies. Student service leader Abby Woolverton said people of all walks of life, from homeless people to college students, are encouraged to come and enjoy a hot meal. 

Jaynell Nicholson, a freshman enviromental conservation biology major who spends a lot of her time volunteering and helping others, was one of the volunteers for Kent Social Service. 

“I’m used to doing a lot of mission work back home in my church,” she said. “It’s great to do service all the time but especially for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.”

Students helped ReStore manager Jan Bennett work on the floors so she could have more space for her merchandise to sell. The Habitat for Humanity ReStore accepts donations of building supplies and furniture and sells them at huge discounts. The proceeds of every purchase go back to Habitat for Humanity to help build houses for those in need of shelter. 

Junior communications major Gabrielle Jutte said she came out to volunteer last minute after being encouraged by friends. 

“I realized if I wasn’t volunteering, all I was going to do was sleep in and not do anything with my day off,” she said.

Jutte says she decided it would be more beneficial to do something extra with her time off and now can go home feeling like she’s made a difference at Habitat for Humanity. 

According to Marcus, OEECE special assistant Ann Gosky set up the site locations, securing the volunteer sites and transportation for the day.

Contact Ashlyne Wilson at [email protected].