Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

STUDENT GIVES BACK FOR MLK DAY ; WVU Launches New Community Service Initiative

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

STUDENT GIVES BACK FOR MLK DAY ; WVU Launches New Community Service Initiative

Article excerpt

With about 150 volunteers working in churches, neighborhood centers and soup kitchens around the state on Monday, West Virginia University launched a new community service initiative challenging college students to give back to their communities one day each month. The initiative, launched to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., is part of a larger plan for WVU students to complete 1 million hours of community service by 2018, a challenge university leaders have extended to West Virginians and one they hope will expand outreach across the state.

For students in Charleston, one of three cities where WVU sent service teams, giving back to needy communities for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday had a deeper meaning.

"When you go to school, you can feel like a visitor sometimes, said Nia Waters, a recent graduate who now works with AmeriCorps. She also helped the university's Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion coordinate Monday's outreach programs.

"Giving back makes us feel like we're part of something, she said.

And that something, one student said, is being part of something bigger.

"If you provide opportunities, students will go out and do it, said Andrew Sutherland, a communications studies senior who heads student community service at WVU. He said people may think college students are apathetic, but they are quick to rise to challenges.

"Some will get even more involved, he said, adding that students on campus go as far as organizing their own events.

While cold weather and snow kept some students from participating Monday, more than 30 students traveled to Charleston to work on various projects at American Red Cross, HOPE Community Development Corporation and the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store. Remaining volunteers worked in Morgantown and Fairmont.

In Charleston, students unloaded furniture from trucks and sorted floor tiles for Habitat for Humanity, inventoried supplies for Red Cross or cleaned Grace Bible Church, where HOPE is located.

Students were thankful for the chance to use their day off Monday to give back, Waters said.

"A few told me they were happy they had something meaningful to do on MLK Day, she said. …

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