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MLK Inspires a Day of Service

Activities on campus, communities honor the civil rights leader

Posted in: University

collage of volunteers
During Montclair's Day of Service and Remembrance, volunteers provided helping hands to a variety of non-profits, including organizing donations, stocking shelves, making blankets and feeding the hungry.

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.

Kisha Joyner speaks with President Koppell
Kisha Joyner recalls the day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at Union Baptist Church in Orange, New Jersey, during a visit with University President Jonathan Koppell. (Photo by Christo Apostolou)

“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.

Sara Duricko
Sara Duricko registers volunteers at the University’s MLK Day of Service and Remembrance.

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.

Photo Gallery

Volunteer with Father English Community Center director, Sister Maureen Sullivan
At the Father English Community Center in Paterson, a University volunteer helps the center’s director, Sister Maureen Sullivan, sort clothing.
Volunteers organize donations at the Father English Community Center
Volunteers unpack and organize donations at the Father English Community Center in Paterson.
Volunteers listening to remarks
Volunteers in Paterson gather for remarks.
Sister Maureen Sullivan
The work of Father English Community Center director, Sister Maureen Sullivan, SC, and a team of volunteers help feed more than 5,000 people every month. This initiative is made possible through Catholic Charities.
Volunteers sort winter coats at Father English Community Center.
Student volunteer holding folded clothes
Volunteers sort through piles of donated clothes.
Student volunteers cutting fabric for blankets
On campus, volunteers cut fabric for blankets to be donated to a homeless shelter.
In the Student Center, volunteers sort and pack bags of essential hygiene supplies for children in need.
Student volunteer sorting personal care products
A volunteer organizes personal care products.
Student volunteer spreading peanut butter on sliced bread
A volunteer spreads peanut butter for PBJ sandwiches for the hungry on MLK Day of Service and Remembrance.
Jess Kershenblatt seated alongside other students
The friendships formed through public service adds to the experience says Jess Kershenblatt, shown far right.
T-shirt with MLK Day of Service printed
MLK Day of Service and Remembrance, Montclair State University, January 17, 2022.

Story by Staff Writer Marilyn Lehren. Photos by University Photographer Mike Peters.Video by University Videographer Christo Apostolou.

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