Hillel students give back on MLK Day

Rebecca Reis

Students from Hillel at Kent State University turned their day off into a day of service by visiting food pantries, spending time with the disabled and helping other nonprofits to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Just 4 a Day” brought students together to perform service for various organizations in Portage and Summit counties. The 75 student volunteers went to Hattie Larlham, Center of Hope, Stow-Glen Retirement Village, Haven of Rest and Campus Kitchen. Activities included making and serving food to locals in need, as well as making crafts with residents.

Some students used the opportunity to fulfill a service requirement for their fraternity or sorority, and others went to fulfill a personal service goal. Evan Oppenheim, junior nutrition and food major, said he sets a personal goal to complete 50 volunteer service hours per semester.

“It’s always good to give back and I feel it’s an important thing. It’s a good foundation of my life,” Oppenheim said. “Since there was this opportunity, especially on this day, I couldn’t turn it down.”

Oppenheim volunteered at Hattie Larlham, a nonprofit organization that cares for children and adults with developmental disabilities. It was not Oppenheim’s first time volunteering at Hattie Larlham, so he was already familiar with one resident in particular.

“I remember Kerry from the last time, we painted an ornament. She’s actually a really good artist because she does most of it herself,” Oppenheim said. “She actually helps me.”

Sophomore Becca Miller is the social justice intern at Hillel and also the chair of the event. Miller volunteered at Center of Hope, a food pantry where volunteers feed families in the surrounding areas of Portage County.

Miller said volunteering at Center of Hope opened her eyes to the reality of having to rely on others to provide food.

“It’s an amazing place,” Miller said. “We’re so lucky to have our meal plan and so lucky to be able to even go to school. It really makes you think.”

Becky Meiser, engagement manager for Hillel at Kent State, said Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a perfect opportunity for students to volunteer in their community. Instead of doing nothing on their day off, Meiser said, Hillel wants students to do meaningful work.

“That was Martin Luther King’s vision anyway, was that it be a day of service. It’s probably the only national holiday that’s about social justice,” Meiser said. “I think it’s only natural, and a way to honor Martin Luther King is for our students to also do service in his name.”

Contact Rebecca Reis at [email protected].