GCC Volunteers Heed the Call to MLK National Day of Service

January 13, 2011

On Monday, January 17, 50 GCC students, faculty, and staff will roll up their sleeves and help out in the community as part of the national Martin Luther King Day of Service. Volunteers willorganize books at the Newton Elementary School Library, lead activities for residents of Arbors Assisted Living, stock shelves at GCC’s Food Pantry, and renovate the offices of Orange’s Young Entrepreneur Society. This is GCC’s third year participating in the national MLK Day of Service. Describing the MLK Day of Service, the national website (http://mlkday.gov) says, “January 17, 2011 will mark the 25th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday. The MLK Day of Service empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, creates solutions to social problems, and moves us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a beloved community.”

When GCC Coordinator of Veterans Services Diane O’Hearn first heard about the MLK Day of Service, she knew the GCC VetNet, the student Veterans Network organization would want to be involved. She said, “Of all the students I’ve worked with, the students involved in Vet Net are most interested in doing service in the community. They look for opportunities to do projects together.” Vet Net President and 2nd year GCC Liberal Arts Nursing student Kevin Leszczynski agreed. He said, “This is a great opportunity for us to reach out to the community and offer our services to help someone else. All of us in Vet Net have already served our country by being in the military. Now, we’re looking for ways to be of service closer to home, in a more personal way.”

GCC’s Coordinator of Transition Services Judy Raper is organizing GCC’s MLK Day of Service. Reflecting on why GCC is participating, Raper said, “We are a community college. It is important for GCC to extend itself beyond the walls of the campus. The need in the community is great and service allows students to apply their learning in real life. Many people think of Martin Luther King Day as a holiday, but with the MLK Day of Service we honor Dr. King’s legacy by doing good work.” 

 This year GCC’s MLK Day of Service projects include:

Newton Elementary School Library Organizers

Volunteers will help organize books and educational resources at the Newton Elementary School library. Old books need to be weeded out, books in boxes need to be shelved, and more. 

 Arbors Assisted Living of Greenfield: Activities with Senior Citizens

GCC Coordinator of Transition Services Judy Raper and members of GCC’s students in recovery group will assist with a variety of activities with the residents of the Arbors. 

 GCC Food Pantry

Dean of Enrollment Management Shane Hammond will work with volunteers to organize GCC’s Food Pantry located in the North Building.

 Young Entrepreneurs Society, Orange

GCC Coordinator of Veterans Services Diane O’Hearn and the GCC VetNet veterans’ group will travel to Orange to help YES with much-needed clean up. Activities will include removing drywall and fixtures from walls, pulling up floor boards, clearing out stored items, and cleaning the space top to bottom.

The agencies with whom GCC volunteers will work were all involved in the Community Opportunities Festival GCC sponsored a year ago. The Community Opportunities Festival helped individual GCC students, faculty and staff make connections with area non-profit organizations seeking volunteers and helped the College develop relationships with area non-profits. For example, for the work at the Newton Elementary School Library, GCC volunteers will join members of the Retired and Seniors Volunteer Program of Hampshire and Franklin Counties (RSVP) and be supervised by members of the Greenfield VIPs (Volunteers in Public Schools) committee. Together, they will help get the library in order for use by Newton’s kindergarten through third grade students.

RSVP works with almost 700 older adults who volunteer in Franklin and Hampshire counties. The RSVP volunteers joining GCC volunteers on MLK Day are members of RSVP’s Experience on Call Team, a group of volunteers who work on one-time and short term projects.

Pat Sicard, Volunteer Coordinator for RSVP, said, “It’s clear that the experience of seniors is greatly needed in many organizations in Franklin and Hampshire counties. However much time they have or whatever their background and interests are, RSVP works with older adults to help them continue their connections in the community.  MLK Day is just one example of RSVP volunteers providing area organizations with much needed help. Collaborating with GCC offers opportunities for RSVP volunteers to have a greater impact in their community. We look forward to working together on many more events.”

Rahima Wade, District Volunteer Coordinator for the Greenfield Public Schools, noted, “Collaboration with GCC students and RSVP volunteers is an exciting way for us to continue to build a school district that is responsive to and inclusive of the local community.  We need volunteers to make our schools vital, nourishing educational environments for students and teachers.”

The MLK Day of Service website, http://mlkday.gov, describes the purpose and origin of the MLK Day of Service. It says, “The MLK Day of Service is a part of United We Serve (www.serve.gov), the President’s national call to service initiative. It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?'” Each year, Americans across the country answer that question by coming together on the King Holiday to serve their neighbors and communities.”

For information about GCC’s participation in the MLK Day of Service, contact Judy Raper at (413) 775-1819 or raperj@gcc.mass.edu.

For information about the national MLK Day of Services, visit http://mlkday.gov/.

For information about the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program of Hampshire and Franklin Counties (RSVP), see www.rsvphf.org or contact Pat Sicard at (413) 584-1300 ext. 183 or psicard@hampshirecog.org.

If you are interested in volunteering in the Greenfield Schools, contact Rahima Wade at volunteer@gpsk12.org or 413-772-1311.

By Mary McClintock, ’82