In a crowded hallway amidst the chaos of cleaning, Brian Moats couldn’t help but pause for a moment to express his gratitude for a few of the opportunities in his life – access to an affordable college education and the ability to work with peers to try to pass that good fortune on to others.
Combine those experiences into one morning, particularly a day honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., and it provided just one more reason to be grateful.
For Moats and about 180 other volunteers, that’s exactly what the University of Missouri–St. Louis’ 10th Annual MLK Day of Service offered.
At 11 sites spread across the St. Louis region, a collection of UMSL students and employees as well as community members spent Monday morning painting, organizing, tutoring and helping with a variety of other activities.
“We’re really lucky to have the opportunity to be going to college and a lot of us on scholarships,” said Moats, a business management major who volunteered at St. Vincent Home for Children. “Any time you have the chance to give back, I feel like that’s really important because not everyone has as many opportunities.”
At St. Vincent, volunteers cleaned and organized a previously unusable library as well as a classroom. The team also prepared rows of lockers, giving a new space for clients to store personal belongings.
“St. Vincent Home for Children is helping kids, which is good because I feel like that’s the future,” Moats said. “We were there not that long ago, and this is something that we can do to help them have a better chance at having the opportunities that we have had.”
Meanwhile, another group of volunteers had a sweet morning in the form of candy, fruit pizza and new friendships at Pathways to Independence, an organization that helps adults with complex learning disabilities and level 1 autism spectrum disorders find social success and independence.
Participants and volunteers spent the day expanding social circles while making individual snacks.
“I’ve really been needing to work on getting out and talking to more people,” student site leader Neah Barnhart said. “Pathways to Independence is actually for people who want to be more social. Even though I don’t have these disabilities, I’m still not that social. I feel like it was good for me to be here.”
As she prepared pineapples to place on top of her snack, criminology major Lexi Krebel, also acknowledged the significance of working with peers on a day dedicated to honoring the service of Martin Luther King Jr.
“It’s really cool to see people come together today because I think Martin Luther King was very inspirational,” Krebel said. “I think this day is really great, and we’re following what he wanted. It’s awesome that we can come together to do that.”
Carrying on the spirit of unity, UMSL alumna Renada Chandler was proud to have students from her alma mater working with youth from Smart Kids, Inc., a tutorial and mentoring program she founded in 2013.
Volunteers provided an hour of one-on-one academic support at the Saint Louis Science Center, allowing the young students to have the individualized attention they need without the pressure of being in a classroom.
“UMSL is a great school, and I am so proud to still be connected,” Chandler said. “I love to partner with students and faculty. They provide great services to help our mission at Smart Kids, Inc.”
Additionally, volunteer groups spent the day at:
Covenant House Missouri,
Gene Slay’s Girls & Boys Club of St. Louis,
Junior Achievement of Greater St. Louis, Inc.,
Mid-County Family YMCA,
St. Louis City Juvenile Detention Center,
St. Ann Catholic School
and TREE House of Greater St. Louis.