By Abby Anderko
All across the country on Monday, January 15th, people commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was a civil rights leader in the 1960s. He is most well-known for his empowering speeches such as “I Have a Dream” and “Beyond Vietnam”. For many like those at Catholic University, this federal holiday is known as a day of service, in order to honor Dr. King’s legacy and ideas of making “this country a better place to live.”
Approximately 800 Catholic students, including eleven of its twenty-five varsity athletic teams, participated in the annual day of service event.
The theme for the day was King’s quote, “I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems.” This quote embodies not only Dr. King’s message, but the University’s perspective on service.
At the beginning of the day, students came together in the Przybyla Center to pray and listen to speeches made by Dr. King. Students were then told the message of the day, which was to “honor the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by participating in this national day of service.” Then, the students were sent out to 23 sites in and around the D.C. area.
Some sites served by students are visited on a weekly basis such as Beacon House and Little Sisters of the Poor, but the range of communities helped also extended to sites such as Anacostia Riverkeeper, the Franciscan Monastery Garden Guild, and Yu Ying Public Charter School.
Senior Kevin Ross, who served with his mission trip group at Little Sisters of the Poor, was pleasantly surprised to be joined by President John Garvey as they sorted out food pantries together.
“It was a great experience,” Ross said. “And President Garvey was there to do work and make a difference, not just stand around for some photos.”
At the Anacostia Riverkeeper, forty Catholic University students helped coordinate a clean-up event that picked up, sorted, weighed, and recorded approximately 160 lb of bottles, 1100 lb of tires, and 4000 lb of other bulk trash. These are just some examples of the large amount of trash that was collected. The total number of pounds of trash soared above 8500 lb.
Senior James Walsh also helped clean up the community by picking up trash and credited his group in working through some less than ideal temperatures in the 20s.
“Having a large group of students is a very important part of service day for me because it helps keep everyone motivated and excited for the purpose of the day,” said Walsh, who served alongside his Habitat for Humanity trip group and other local volunteers.
At the Yu Ying Public Charter School, the men’s and women’s basketball teams joined forces to assist in packaging gifts for children and their families at the Children’s National Medical Center. Players and the younger students from the Charter School created bags filled with books, toys, and games to be distributed to the children, while players, parents, and older students filled bags with toiletries for the parents of those admitted to the hospital.
In memory of Dr. King’s amazing work, students at Catholic University were asked to not take the “day off”, but use it as a “day on” for service to those around them. Martin Luther King Jr. said in his speech that he had a dream of a better America, and many now commemorate his life by going out and making that world a reality.