Wintry MLK Day of Service sees UMSL students clearing crops, sweeping floors
Freezing temperatures on Monday didn’t deter University of Missouri–St. Louis students from getting out and celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day the best way they knew how – volunteering for the community.
A total of 230 students participated in the annual MLK Day of Service, helping to scrub, sweep, dust, paint and deep clean at 13 sites across the region for a total of 699 service hours. Some brave volunteers even took to the farm.
Just north of UMSL, tucked away in a quiet Ferguson, Mo., neighborhood, 26 students helped EarthDance Farms prep for the season. Monica Pless, farm manager, directed student volunteers in one of the three greenhouses on site, where they pulled up shriveled tomato, pepper, eggplant and ginger plants to make room for next season’s spinach, arugula, radishes and carrots.
For many students, like sophomore Ashley Taylor and senior Melissa Schnefke, it was their first time in a greenhouse. As they removed plant clips and ground staples, they had time to reflect on their service.
“It’s a good way to give back to the community and help in whatever way I can,” said Taylor.
“It’s also great feeling like I’m part of something bigger than just myself,” said Schnefke. “That’s part of what Martin Luther King Jr. was about – caring about things bigger than just himself.”
Student volunteers Gary Arturo II and Jennifer O’Neill said it’s also a good way for many different students from different organizations to come together and experience a place they otherwise might not have known about.
Down in the basement of the farmhouse, Volunteer Coordinator Kaitie Adams taught UMSL students Sage Rohrer, Lindsey Smith and Samantha Eggemeyer how to clean and prepare radishes and turnips to sell, whether for wholesale or the local, indoor Ferguson Farmers Market.
The young women all wanted to volunteer at a place that had an outdoorsy feel to it.
And while some students dug into soil at EarthDance, others spritzed and sprayed every square inch of St. Ann Catholic School just down the street from UMSL on Natural Bridge Road.
“This is the seventh year St. Ann has participated in MLK Day of Service,” said Principal Mary Jo Reichenbach. “This kind of deep cleaning really only gets done once a year. We’re a small community school and a small parish, so the help is much appreciated.”
Freshman Ashlyn Bucher helped sweep and dust the science lab.
“Service and volunteering is a good way to spend time with friends on a free day,” she said. “It’s also an important way to honor an influential figure like Dr. King, too.”
In the school cafeteria, sophomore Armela Subasic cleaned a refrigerator – a task that she said some may not consider very impactful but makes a big difference.
“This means a lot to the people that have to use this fridge on a daily basis,” she said. “Imagine how happy they will be tomorrow when they see it all clean. That makes me happy, knowing that even in this small way, I’m making a difference and helping someone.”
Many shared the same sentiment. In fact, when asked why service is important, the most popular answer from UMSL students was “to give back to the community that gives to me.”
The other 11 service sites included:
Children’s Home Society-St. Charles
Gene Slay’s Boys Club of St. Louis
Carver Elementary School
International Institute of STL Global Farms
Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry
Children’s Home Society-Brentwood
Lift for Life Gym
Pathways to Independence
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