UMSL students Allison Pierce, Kelsey Wertheimer, Giovanny Chevalier, Jake Hayward, and Anne Ogier put a fresh coat of paint on the walls of the Almost Home complex during UMSL's MLK Day of Service Jan. 16. Almost Home provides a safe shelter for teenage mothers and their children. (Photo by Virginia Harold)

For the 200 volunteers who gathered early Monday morning to pick up their assignments, it was all about giving, not getting. There was no day off for these volunteers at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. And they gave their all because the man they were honoring did the same for them.

This is the fourth year for UMSL’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Sponsored by UMSL Students of Service and the Office of Student Life, the event focused on 11 sites in need of a helping hand. The volunteers, most of them students, signed up to paint, or clean up an outdoor area, or connect the work of Martin Luther King Jr. to young people in the community.

A group led by Alan Byrd, dean of enrollment, visited the St. Louis Juvenile Detention Center, according to Ashlee Roberts, coordinator of the event.

“We call it an educational interaction with the kids in the detention center,” said Roberts. “In one small group we talked about the people who influenced Dr. King, then discussed who had influenced the lives of the kids in the center. We leave all the materials behind so they can reflect on the day. We also played a MLK trivia game at the end to see what they learned and gave out t-shirts to the winners.”

A group of 16 UMSL students painted hallways at Almost Home, a safe shelter for teenage mothers and their children. Another group of people painted the church lobby and the upper floor hallway at the Unity Lutheran Church of Bel-Nor, Mo.

The celebration of civil rights activist Martin Luther King’s birthday is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service – “a day on, not a day off.” The MLK Day of Service is seen as a way to transform Martin Luther King’s life and teachings into community action that helps solve social problems.

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Maureen Zegel

Maureen Zegel