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Owls serve to honor MLK Day

Events around the city draw students and faculty to honor civil rights leader.

Temple students, staff and alumni took part in the nationwide Martin Luther King Day of Service on Monday in various locations near Main Campus. Added by Congress in 1994, the day of service component to Martin Luther King Day encourages citizens to volunteer in their communities. 

Temple’s Office of Community Relations, which is a sponsor of the Greater Philadelphia region’s service projects, encouraged students to volunteer at sites such as Berean Presbyterian Church on Broad and Diamond streets and Gray Manor Apartments, a retirement home on 8th and Oxford streets. The office’s staff planned many of the service projects near campus.

“We see [planning service projects] as a great way of connecting us to our neighbors and showing support to the larger component of MLK Day of Service, which is giving back,” said Andrea Swan, director of Temple’s Office of Community and Neighborhood Affairs and a leader in Temple’s promotion of the day’s service projects.

At the 130-year-old Berean church, Temple students and local residents helped clean, paint, and organize the church’s collection of donated clothes available to those in need of them. “Rather than spend time indoors today, I thought it’d be better to just go out and help people,” said Scott Fulton, a junior political science major.

Gregory Bonaparte, who has been with Temple’s residence hall maintenance team for 20 years and is also a trustee for Berean, led the volunteers with the clean-up of the church’s basement rooms. While many of the volunteers were Temple students or local adults, some children took part.

“We asked for our contacts at the church to bring children so that after the cleanup we could have a conversation about MLK Day,” Swan said.

At Gray Manor Apartments, students from Temple’s College of Health Professions and Social Work interacted with the building’s residents and administered free blood pressure screenings.

“A lot of our seniors here have high blood pressure or hypertension, so these screenings can let us know if their levels are too high or not,” said Irene Robinson, an administrator at Gray Manor and a Temple alumna. “It’s been great,” said Chorn Pen, a senior public health student who was administering the test. “I’ve met a lot of great people.”

Many students enjoyed their volunteering experience, such as freshman nursing major Rachael Pozneck, who volunteered to help teach origami to Gray Manor residents. “I hope we get to do it again soon,” Pozneck said. “At first I was reluctant because it was our day off, but this is really rewarding.”

Swan hopes that this year’s service projects will motivate more students to volunteer more often. “The concept behind the MLK Day of Service is that it should really be 365 days a year,” Swan said.

Amos Recreation Center on 16th and Berks streets had one of the largest reported volunteer turnouts. Members of Temple’s Black Alumni Alliance, who helped paint and clean the facility that morning, estimated that between 30 and 60 volunteers came to help.

“It was a really diverse group of people here,” said Beverly Coleman, assistant vice president for community relations and economic affairs. According to Coleman, the volunteer group consisted of HPSW students, local children and members of Temple’s Campus Recreation staff.

The volunteer activity in Philadelphia began at Girard College in the Fairmount neighborhood, which holds ties to Dr. King since he fought for the school’s eventual 1968 desegregation. This year, the city’s signature project involved sending packages of school supplies to Philadelphia public schools.  The volunteer activities at Girard concluded with a performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra.

In addition to students particpiating in service, President Neil Theobald participated in a ceremony with Sen. Bob Casey and the Rev. Carl Prince at the Zion Baptist Church in North Philly.

Joe Brandt can be reached at joseph.brandt@temple.edu.

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