Kisha Joyner recalls the day as a 7-year-old girl when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached on poverty at her lifelong church, Union Baptist in the City of Orange. “Even though I didn’t fully understand, I knew it was an exciting time,” she says. “I’d never seen that many people in the church before.”
Dr. King’s visit on March 27, 1968, was among several in New Jersey – just eight days before his assasination – in Newark, Jersey City, Paterson and Orange to bring awareness to the Poor People’s Campaign. “For him to be assassinated so shortly after his visit, it was just so fresh as a child,” Joyner says.
The memories remain strong 54 years later as Joyner, now a church trustee, shared the story with Montclair State University President Jonathan Koppell during a recent visit. With the Union Baptist Church providing a fitting backdrop to commemorate Dr. King’s legacy, the University filmed a video promoting the power of public service.
“There is nothing that gives more meaning to our lives than doing something to improve the lives of others,” Koppell says in the message to the Montclair community.
On Monday, January 17, Montclair students did just that, coming together on a wintry day for the MLK Day of Service and Remembrance, with volunteers packaging hygiene and medical supplies, stocking shelves, sorting clothes, feeding the hungry and participating via video with senior citizens.
“It’s all about bringing communities together and making the world we live in a better place for everyone,” says Sara Duricko, a senior Psychology major with minors in both Criminal Justice and Environmental Justice.
Duricko’s incentive to volunteer stems from her involvement with the University’s Bonner Leader Program. “It encapsulates all of my beliefs and gives me an outlet to practice them in my everyday life,” she says. “I love serving as many communities as I can through civic engagement and advocacy, and acting on necessary changes every chance I get.”
A sampling of the volunteer activities included students on campus making blankets for the homeless and assembling hygiene kits for children. At Wynona’s House, an Essex County child advocacy center In Newark, volunteers unpacked donated toys and filled shelves with everyday essentials. In Paterson, at the Father English Community Center, volunteers organized donations of winter coats for its thrift store and assisted in the food pantry.
Friendships formed during the activities add to the experiences, says Jess Kershenblatt, a freshman majoring in Family Science and Human Development.
“I’ve always been a big people-person so being able to make connections and friendships with others is important to me,” says Kershenblatt, who served at Pillar Care Continuum in Livingston, New Jersey, socializing with individuals with disabilities. “Through volunteering, I am able to do some good and meet some great people along the way.”
See the photo gallery for scenes of Montclair students observing the MLK Day of Service and Remembrance.
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