Park students turn a day off… Into a day on

22 Jan

“I have a dream that one day … the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” – Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963

In a brightly lit kitchen in downtown Kansas City, eighteen Park University students, two Park faculty members, and a dozen community volunteers worked side by side to make 1500 hot meals last Monday. If one was to take inventory of the people, they would see that the group was diverse. Every color was represented, several religions, many different backgrounds and stories. Despite any cultural barriers that some could claim, these volunteers seemed like a true team as they prepared bacon, made garlic bread, and tossed salad.

“I think it is important for our students to spend at least part of our holiday honoring Martin Luther King,” said Caroline Heckman, Coordinator of Student Leadership & Engagement. “Being a servant to others is big part of Dr. King’s message, and as students, faculty and staff at Park University, we want to honor that message with the giving of our time.”

Every year, groups nationwide celebrate legendary civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday by serving their communities. Park University students gave their time to KC Community Kitchen, a charity run by Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral. Each afternoon, they serve 500 hot meals to the area’s homeless. Park students assisted in preparing for three days of meals. 70% of the food served is donated by local merchants, and serves over one million meals each year.

“Service helps me be aware of the world,” said Amanda Hall, junior. “It helps me to be thankful for what I have.”

Park students have a strong presence in the community, especially with the new service scholarship requiring students to serve hours over the semester. Last semester, freshman served all over the greater Kansas City area, from churches to charities. Student organizations also make community service a priority. Roteract gave money for lunches to an elementary school in Uganda, Africa to get kids through a famine. Campus Activities Board raised money for Relay For Life with Bash Out Cancer car smashing event in December.

“I believe service is important to Park students because it broadens our horizons,” said Ben Zibers, senior. “Like any university, we have a tendency to stay involved in our culture of our friends and our lives, and forget about everything else. Service helps us remember the bigger world.”

This was the fourth service event of the school year, following service days at Operation Breakthrough and Harvesters in the fall. Upcoming this semester is Relay for Life – a fundraiser for cancer research – on April 23 2010.

“I like to do service because it really touches people’s lives,” said Zibers. “It might be the only time a person ever experiences love.”

Students interested in serving the community can join Park Service Organization, a student organization that provides service opportunities for the betterment of the self and community, meeting every Monday at 4:30pm in the conference room of Copley Quad.

Ways to involve service in everyday life:
– Use your hobbies for good. Knit hats and socks, sew baby blankets, cook meals, build websites, or otherwise use your skills to benefit local organizations.
– Visit websites like that donate money for every click, or that donates money when you use their search engine.
– Write letters to the newspaper and your representatives to advocate for causes you care about.
– Sign online petitions that support bills to better the community.
– Donate old cell phones to help troops or domestic violence victims.
– Conserve energy by turning off lights to fight global warming.
– Write letters to wounded soldiers and send them through organizations like
– Buy extra school supplies and donate them to children in need.
– Re-use bags and containers to conserve energy.
– Donate unwanted clothes to local homeless and domestic abuse victim shelters.
– Don’t spread gossip or perpetuate stereotypes.
– Smile at the next person you see!

Published in The Stylus, 22 January 2010


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