ActivePaper Archive Remembering MLK - Mon Valley Independent, 1/21/2020

Remembering MLK

MLK Day of Service hosted by PSU students in McKeesport The MLK Day of Service inspires thousands of Americans to come together to serve their community each year.


These Penn State students helped sort and organize items at Auberle’s donation center on Monday as part of their “day of service,” which was planned to recognize and remember the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. From left are Allyson Pinchot and Amaya Wright, who are both students at Penn State Beaver, and Joseph Dusabe, a student at Penn State New Kensington.

Jeff Stitt / Mon Valley Independent

Students from five different Penn State University campuses in Western Pennsylvania joined forces in McKeesport Monday to complete service projects in memory of the life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Jeff Ballou, news editor for the Americas at Al Jazeera Media Network’s English language channel, spoke at Penn State Greater Allegheny on Monday about the life and mission of MLK. He encouraged students from Penn State’s, Beaver, DuBois, Fayette – Eberly, Greater Allegheny and New Kensington campuses to be the change they want to see in the university and in the world before sending them out across the region to volunteer their time at either Auberle in McKeesport, Beverly’s Birthdays in North Huntingdon, Bible Center Church of Home-wood, Irwin-based All But Furgotten animal rescue or the Salvation Army family donation center.

Prior to heading out to serve the region, PSUGA Chancellor Dr. Jacqueline Edmondson reminded students that this year’s MLK holiday marks the 25th anniversary of the day of service. She explained that the holiday is observed each year on the third Monday in January and is known as “a day on, not a day off.”

She said MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities.

Legislation was signed in 1983 to mark the birthday of Dr. King as a federal holiday.

Americans first observed the holiday in 1986. In 1994, Congress designated the holiday as a national day of service.

The MLK Day of Service inspires hundreds of thousands of Americans to come together to serve their community each year, according to the federal Corporation for National and Community Service. Citizens in all 50 states deliver meals, refurbish schools and community centers, collect food and clothing, recruit mentors, support job-seekers, build homes, teach financial literacy skills and provide other services for veterans and military families on MLK Day each year.

During his address, Ballou, who is a Penn State graduate and began his collegiate career at Greater Allegheny in 1985, spoke of MLK’s life and activism. He told students that they “cannot freeze Dr. King on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.”

“There was so much more to him in his growth, in his arc than that,” he said.

Ballou said King was popular for his speeches, sermons and poems, for leading marches, participating in sit-ins, talking with political movers and shakers, for preaching equality and non-violence and the value of brotherhood and for being “the darling of the press,” but that there were also times in King’s career, such as when he spoke out against the Vietnam War, that press editorial boards, the United States Congress and even civil rights organizations such as the Urban League were not fond of King.

“They all took him to task,” Ballou said. “(King) was headed in a very different direction philosophically. He said we had no business, especially people of color, had no business fighting other racial minorities in somebody else’s war.

“He was taking on too many things that people thought he had no business talking about.”

Ballou said he is proud of MLK for speaking out when it was unpopular to do so.

“King was condemned partially because he asked the hard, unpopular questions about difficult issues in search of solutions,” he said.

Ballou told students that volunteering on MLK Day and advocating for those who are systemically impoverished, suffer discrimination or feel that they can’t rise above the stigma of their socio-economic status moves society closer to Dr. King’s vision of what he called “a Beloved Community.”

Penn State Fayette’s director of student affairs, Chad Long, joined a handful of students who volunteered at Auberle’s McKeesport campus to sort through clothes, toys and household necessities that have been donated to the Auberle donation center and will be given to children and teens in foster care, or to foster parents who are having trouble making ends meet.

Long said he encouraged students to participate because Dr. King is a hero of his. He said he has a plaque on his desk with the MLK quote: “Everyone can be great because everybody can serve.”

“This is my 18th year participating in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service,” Long said. “I encouraged students to volunteer because I think it is important for us to focus on and recognize how fortunate we are and to appreciate what we do have, especially when there are others out there who are struggling.

“Dr. King had a legacy of helping others through service, and I think it is a moral obligation to encourage our students, and everyone, to do the same.”

Joseph Dusabe, a student at Penn State New Kensington, volunteered at Auberle for the holiday. He said he has been learning about the life and legacy of MLK since he was a child, but he never knew the purpose of the holiday was about more than just honoring the memory of “a great man.” “Of course, we are all influenced by Dr. King,” he said as he sorted through children’s toys. “But, I was never aware that the aim of the day is to complete service projects for others. Today was the first day I heard about that and I think that’s pretty cool.”

Auberle’s volunteer coordinator Kayla McGrath said she sees MLK as a hero and thinks he would be proud that PSU students spent the holiday serving children and families in need. She said the work of the volunteers makes a “big impact” on those who are in need and visit the donation center.

“We get a lot of donations that come in throughout the year. They’re clothes and games and shoes and everything. It’s wonderful, but it’s a lot and it’s hard to manage it all,” she said. “Our staff is often busy taking care of families or youth and we appreciate all of the help today.

“Material donations are necessary for us to help families or children who are in foster care or are in an emergency and need the items. Often times, when those individuals are in our donation center to get new clothes and necessities it can be emotional, so having an organized, functional space just helps everything work more smoothly and makes the experience less intimidating for those who are here to receive help.”