A Day 'On'
Instead of taking a break on the recent Martin Luther King Jr. Day, hundreds of MCLA students participated in Northern Berkshire's Martin Luther King Jr. "A Day On, Not a Day Off" event, volunteering at more than 14 sites across North Adams, Adams and Williamstown.
About 450 MCLA students and community members participated in this year's event - twice as many as last year, according to Thomas Alexander, MCLA's coordinator for ALANA, international and veteran programs and services, a member of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition's Martin Luther King Jr. Committee, and the person who headed up the campus' efforts.
"Community service is a great way to get involved," said Macy Fredericksen '15 of Ballston Spa, N.Y. "I love helping out in service projects like the MLK Day. The whole day was open, so I was able to put every second since the start of the service day into it."
Fredericksen volunteered at the military care box station, where she organized materials to go to the troops - such as snacks, personal care items, pens, pencils, and stationery.
"I loved making cards for the soldiers and seeing the cards that others were making," she said.
Alyson Carey '13 of Dudley, Mass., participated on behalf of the MCLA Chapter of the National Residence Hall Honorary.
"We thought it would be a great opportunity to participate in building community in the Berkshires and serving those less fortunate than us," Carey explained. "I worked at Goodwill and helped sort clothing. It was so fun! This gave us the opportunity to help others and get to know our fellow students better, and also the members of the North Adams community."
Other activities included painting at the local YMCA, projects at the Louison House homeless shelter, local churches, the Salvation Army and Goodwill, cleaning up at the local skating rink and recycling efforts at grocery stores in the area.
"It was a wonderful day. So many people came," Alexander said. "There were plenty of projects to go around, which included winterizing homes and filling gift boxes for the military that elementary school kids decorated, with messages thanking them for their service. People were happy and having fun.
"It was a great experience to see so many people from so many parts of our community who wanted to give back. People were saying, 'Wow. I want to do this at the College every year," he added.
According to Spencer Moser, coordinator of the College's Center for Service and Citizenship, it was standing room only as the volunteers crowded into MCLA's Church Street Center.
"North Adams and MCLA really came together to put into practice some of the convictions and teachings of Martin Luther King Jr.: We need to look to our own communities, and ourselves, to make our community a better place. Those are the building blocks of democracy and freedom, and egalitarianism," Moser said.
"Opportunities like this are abundant at MCLA, and emphasize community service and engagement," Carey said. "You learn so much during these experiences outside the classroom. They teach you to appreciate the small things and be grateful for everything you have. You learn the best way to build community is to give. With a positive energy and a bit of your time and effort, you can truly make a difference."