Service Gives Meaning to “A Day On—Not a Day Off” on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

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Karmen Kurtz volunteers on MLK Day of Service 2015.

Despite the temptation to take advantage of the three-day weekend created by the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday, Jan. 19, more than 170 UNC Asheville students and employees left their pillows behind and spent the day in service to their community.

“It isn't just about satisfying a requirement, but about waking up and participating in public service,” said senior Stephanie Watkins-Cruz, who served as an MLK Ambassador helping to coordinate and organize service-learning opportunities for the day of volunteering.

“It is an important part of growing and becoming a better and more engaged citizen,” Watkins-Cruz said. “School or no school, need doesn't stop.”

A record number of students, faculty and staff volunteered in a variety of organizations in Asheville this year. Some prepared arts and crafts projects for children in the hospital with Arts for Life Asheville, while others worked at the Boys and Girls Club of Buncombe County and the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

Students volunteering with Asheville Greenworks helped beautify the route for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day march, while others working with the YWCA of Asheville helped to staff the march in a variety of ways and help in the Y’s community garden.

“It’s really important because the program is giving so much back to the community,” said sophomore Fiona Cunningham, who spent the day at Fiona Cunningham and Kyla Rohe volunteered at the YWCA for the MLK Day of Service.the YWCA. “We just sit on our butts this Monday otherwise, so today we’re helping out the people who help the community so much.”

This year also featured a special “Adelaide Key Project," in remembrance of the Key Center for Community Citizenship & Service Learning’s namesake, Adelaide Worth Daniels Key. Students volunteered in the garden at The Rathbun House, a hospitality house near Mission Hospital for patients and caregivers that was founded by Key.

“I hope that every participant is changed through their service,” said James Whalen, president of the Student Government Association. Whalen volunteered with his Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity brothers. “Nearly every need we attempt to solve during the day of service could be satisfied if we continue to reshape society to more closely fit Dr. King’s dream.”