A group of Illinois State University students turned Martin Luther King, Jr. Day from a day off to a day on by taking part in the MLK Day Service Project through the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CESL).
The annual project honors King by providing Redbirds an opportunity to learn about a local organization, serve the community, and reflect on the legacy of King.
The MLK Day of Service Project was first offered at Illinois State in 2010, coinciding with a national trend of honoring King through service. The project originated in the Dean of Student’s Office and it transitioned to CESL two years ago.
This year’s project was one of the only projects in Bloomington-Normal registered through the Corporation for National and Community Service, the national organization promoting the MLK Day of Service.
The 2019 MLK Day of Service Project took place at the Home Sweet Home Ministries (HSHM) warehouse. Students sorted clothes and household items, including housewares, books, movies, CDs, and games. The items were cleaned and/or prepared for sale at HSHM’s Mission Mart thrift store.
As a group, the students and project leaders worked a total of 41 service hours for HSHM during the MLK Day of Service.
Paige Buschman, AmeriCorp member and graduate assistant at CESL, selected HSHM for this year’s project because the ministry’s mission aligns with the teachings and legacy of King. “The services they provide (shelter and rehousing, food services and a dining center) are directly related to the elimination of poverty, the correction of all social ills, and the instillation of hope, all of which are ideas central to MLK’s mission,” said Buschman.
The Redbirds toured the HSHM warehouse during the project and learned a great deal about how the organization operates and serves the Bloomington-Normal community.
In addition to learning about a local organization, the MLK Day of Service Project also gave students an opportunity to consider the work of King—a person who changed the landscape of American politics and social justice movements. They learned how a single individual could impact change through their service.
After the experience, many of the students plan to make volunteering a larger priority in their lives. Several students hope to serve at HSHM again in the future.
It is Buschman’s hope that the students involved see themselves in King’s example. “We learned about how to make a difference and we celebrated the positive legacy of a person who, when he started out, was not unlike us all. I hope the students involved learned how to improve the world, their communities, and themselves through their service,” she said.