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HUNTINGTON - In memory of a man celebrated by millions across the country this week, Marshall University students, faculty and staff ventured into the community Friday as part of the school's inaugural Martin Luther King Day of Service.

The event is meant to be an opportunity for those at Marshall to participate in various service projects aimed at addressing social problems such as poverty, hunger and other injustices, said Will Holland, director of the university's Office of Community Outreach and Volunteer Services, in a release.

The Day of Service began at 8:30 a.m. with a breakfast in the university's Don Morris Room.

After breakfast, participants were divided into morning and afternoon sessions for their assigned service projects.

Project sites included Harmony House, Goodwill of the KYOWVA Area, Ronald McDonald House, Facing Hunger Foodbank, Ebenezer Community Outreach Daycare, Boys & Girls Club of Huntington and the A.D. Lewis Community Center, as well as one on-campus project.

Kelli Johnson, coordinator for the Marshall University President's Commission on Diversity, Equality and Inclusion, was one of five Marshall representatives who spent the morning interacting with children at the Ebenezer Community Outreach Daycare.

"We're just kind of hanging out and having fun with them," Johnson said as she helped 4-year-olds glue colored paper to a big red paper heart.

In another room, children danced around mental health specialist Tiffany Bowes as she blew bubbles into the air.

"I think it's awesome that they're here doing this," said Kayla Leonard, a teacher at the day care. "It's good for Marshall and it shows the community that we have good people out there."

A few miles down the road at the Goodwill store on Virginia Avenue, Marshall nursing student Savannah Hare worked alongside Goodwill employee Dakota Blankenship hanging up clothes.

Hare, who enjoys volunteering at her hometown library in Charles Town, West Virginia, said the Day of Service was a great way for Marshall students to get out of their campus bubble.

"We come from so many different places and we are such a community on campus that it's important for us to branch out and go into the actual community and get to know it," she said.

As a Goodwill employee for the past four years, Blankenship, 21, said she enjoyed being able to show Hare and other students what she does.

She said it was also a way to get the word out that Goodwill is more than just a retail store.

"The Goodwill does so much that people don't even know about," she said. "They do credit card counseling, Hire Attire (program), help people with rsums, family counseling and even backpacks for kids."

Alissa Stewart, CEO of Goodwill Industries of KYOWVA, said she could not be more pleased that Marshall was taking the initiative to get to know what's going on in the community.

"When I was in school, you could make good grades and have a job and put that on a rsum and you were good to go, but now even if you make good grades, you need community service and you need to be more well-rounded," she said.

William "Tootie" Carter, business manager at the Marshall Student Center, said roughly 200 students, faculty and staff signed up for the Day of Service.

"It's just a great experience for them, especially our students," he said. "They need to know and experience what's out there as far as volunteer services instead of only focusing on going to class and studying."

Although this is the first year for the MLK Day of Service, Carter said he hopes it will not be the last.

This event was sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs and the President's Commission on Diversity, Equality and Inclusion.


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