More than 500 serve on MLK Day of Service
Six waters. Three Sierra Mist drinks. Four cans of tomato soup, six of corn. Two boxes of couscous, two of rice. One Target food relief bag.
Tape up the box. Stock it. Do it again.
Repetitive, yes. Time consuming, sure. Helpful? Definitely.
Such was the duty of one group of students that gave Monday to help at Harvest Hope Food Bank as part of USC’s 14th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. More than 500 students volunteered at 27 sites across Columbia. The Harvest Hope Food Bank group was helped by USC First Lady Patricia Moore-Pastides.
“When we give to those who have need, it fills us up and makes us feel better about ourselves,” said Moore-Pastides, who worked beside the students at Harvest Hope for much of the day. “I think that does the same thing for us as individuals as it does for our institution.”
The MLK Day of Service is sponsored by the Carolina Service Council and Community Service Programs. By Friday, registration for the event closed due to maximum event capacity. Unregistered volunteers were informed they would be placed on a waiting list. According to Christina Galardi, Carolina Service Council’s student director of the MLK Day of Service, all walk-up volunteers were sent to sites.
“MLK is one of the biggest events we do throughout the semester,” said Ji Lim, a third-year insurance service management student and treasurer of the Carolina Service Council. “It’s just a great way for outside students to outreach not only our fellow students on campus but also the people in our community.”
Lim was one of several site leaders at Harvest Hope. Site leaders were volunteer supervisors whose bright, lime green shirts stood out amid a sea of drab cardboard boxes students were filling with food for the needy.
“I’ve watched 168 boxes be shipped up and packaged by us,” said Jackie Parnell, a third-year finance student also decked out in green. “That’s got to make an impact on someone’s life.”
Harvest Hope wasn’t the only site where students were making an impact. At Agape Senior Assisted Living of Lexington, students helped and entertained residents by folding clothes, cutting out snowflake decorations for an upcoming family night and playing bingo.
Third-year political science student Nelson Weston connected the day’s mission to its namesake’s message.
“It tied into Dr. King’s overall message of giving back,” Nelson said. “It reminded us of how far we’ve come and what we can still do.”
Lim saw a connection as well.
“King made this great point that everyone is great because we can serve. I think God has put us on Earth; he saved us to serve,” said Lim. “I just hope students will not make it a one-day thing but make a positive impact throughout their lives.”
The point about service Lim cited was part of King’s “The Drum Major Instinct” speech, which, according to Galardi, was adopted as this year’s theme.
Moore-Pastides stressed the importance of the unity exhibited by the students’ service.
“Especially with what happened in Tucson, we need to come together as a people and have more compassion and more action,” Moore-Pastides said. “I feel that this is a good day for us to begin in his memory.”