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Students celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a march and candlelight vigil, along with service to non-profit organizations Jan. 19. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Vigil, Volunteerism Highlight MLK Day

By Christine Neff

For some students at East Carolina University, the Jan. 19 holiday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. was not a day of rest, but a day of service in which they remembered and emulated the civil rights leader.

About 150 students partici- pated in the 2009 MLK Day Challenge. The annual event, organized by ECU’s Volunteer and Service-Learning Center, offered students the opportunity to volunteer with local non-profit organizations.

“Dr. King was all about bringing people together through service, and this is a way to honor that legacy and involve our students in community projects,” said Shawn Moore, ECU’s community partner coordinator. “We think it’s a really great way to engage the students.”

Students registered online to participate in one of 14 projects. Among the good deeds they did were preparing food items for distribution at the Food Bank at Greenville, packing care packages for deployed troops with Give to the Troops, moving mattresses and furniture at the Greenville Community Shelter and socializing dogs at the Humane Society of Eastern Carolina.

Some students visited assisted living facilities – Red Oak, Tar River Manor, Spring Arbor and Sterling House – to do painting, landscaping and interact with residents. Others helped out at the Ronald McDonald House, Boys and Girls Club, Little Willie Center, RHA Howell Center, Hope Lodge and ECU’s ARAMARK Dining Services.

The event began on campus with breakfast and an inspirational message delivered by Lathan Turner, assistant vice chancellor for intercultural student affairs.

“It’s pretty incredible to get 150 kids to come out on their day off to help these organizations,” Moore said, adding that some students used the day to get to know local agencies and start volunteering on a regular basis. “This lets them dip their toe in the water,” she said.

Later that night, more than 100 students gathered in front of Belk Hall on College Hill to participate in a vigil and march in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

The purpose of the march, said Montique Warren, president of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and co-chairmen of the program, was to honor a “man whose enduring fight for equality and civil rights has led us to where we are today – on the eve of the inauguration of an African-American president.”

Students lit candles while the Black Student Union Ensemble performed. They then marched en masse down College Hill and through the ECU campus, ending at the Mendenhall Student Center.

Many who marched noted the significance of honoring King the day before President Barack Obama took the oath of office. “By electing a black president, America is taking one more step towards fulfilling King’s dream,” said Allen Thomas, president of the BSU. “It is time for us to become eager and continue on with that dream.”


This page originally appeared in the Jan. 30, 2009 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at