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MLK Day of Service allows students to honor the legacy of civil rights advocate

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks on Jan. 1, 1960 in Washington D.C. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

There’s no better way to commemorate the legacy of civil rights advocate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. than committing a day’s worth of service to give back to the Columbus community.

Approximately 900 to 1,000 students are expected to volunteer at various nonprofits in the Columbus area on Monday for Ohio State’s 22nd annual MLK Day of Service. Pay It Forward, a service-oriented student organization, has worked to plan the event that will give student volunteers a choice between 39 different agencies including various food pantries, COSI and the Columbus Humane Society.

“It’s kind of to highlight Dr. King’s legacy through service and civil discourse, and so that’s an important thing to recognize for the federal holiday and to make sure that students are aware why we have that federal holiday, why they have classes off and why it’s important to give back to the community,”  Alyssa Johnson, program adviser for Pay It Forward, said.

Johnson said there will also be service sites on campus like The Pack Shack where students can assemble meals for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, or Fresh Start where students can make hygiene kits for the homeless in Columbus.

In addition to free breakfast before the day commences, the Hale Black Cultural Center at Ohio State will introduce the morning with an opening ceremony featuring tribute songs to the late Aretha Franklin, soul icon and MLK’s fellow civil rights activist, Johnson said.

Tiffany Randall, a fourth-year in sport industry and co-chair of MLK Day of Service, was largely responsible for setting the vision of this year’s event and said service has inspired her to become a better person throughout her life.

“It’s doing good for the community, and there’s never too much good you can do,” Randall said. “I think [MLK Day] is a great way to meet new people and build those bonds. And there’s doughnuts. Who doesn’t love doughnuts?”

Not only has Randall developed her own leadership and collaboration skills thanks to her involvement with Pay It Forward, but she also said that MLK Day of Service can have a greater impact than one might imagine.

“It’s great to build connections,” Randall said. “I know that speaking to an agency, she mentioned that volunteers who have volunteered at the site previously with MLK now have jobs with them because of those connections.”

Pre-registration for the event is not required. Students can sign up to volunteer at the Ohio Union starting at 7:45 a.m. Monday.

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