On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a moving speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, inspiring a massive group of civil rights advocates to make a difference in the world.
Today, Dr. King continues to inspire people to do good and to make the world a better place through service to those less fortunate as evidenced through the work of Bluefield College student leaders, who spent a day in service, January 15, 2018, volunteering at the Bland Ministry Center, as part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Day of Service.
“In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?’” said Dr. Cynthia Bascom, a Bluefield College professor of communication who joined the students in service on Martin Luther King Day. “I’m hopeful that through service experiences like this every one of our students can develop a loving heart, a curious intellect, and a purpose-filled spirit.”
Sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service and the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia, the MLK Service Day is a day set aside for communities to come together to change the status quo of everyday life. It’s a day where people are urged not to focus on themselves, but to reach out with a helping hand and volunteer in the community. It’s also a day designed to honor Dr. King, who lived a life of service.
Toward that end, Dr. Bascom and 10 BC students — Rhyan Bailey, Katelyn Dunford, Kalin Folden, Chaz Franqui, Precious Haines, Brittni Holman, Aireon Leary, Megan Norton, Sarah Pauley and Karlene Tuininga — worked at the Bland Ministry Center assembling new office furniture, helping move bags of donations, and sorting donated clothes.
“Volunteer experiences like this help my students understand what Jesus meant by the Christian admonition to ‘love one another,’” said Dr. Bascom, “and to recognize that their actions can have social value.”
The students’ service was also part of a Compassion Project in their Civic and Global Response class, a class that encourages students to explore their place in the world community, identify ways in which their actions can affect the community, and develop a personal response that contributes to the creation of social value. As part of the class, students are required to be involved in a minimum of 20 hours of local social organizations, while critically evaluating emerging social issues.
“I had never actually heard of the Bland Ministry until Dr. Bascom told us about it,” said junior Sarah Pauley who helped put together the office furniture. “I’ve always volunteered more locally at the Wade Center or Bluefield Union Mission, but I was really amazed how much Bland Ministry does for their locals, with medical help, the food pantry, and school supplies. I was really excited to help them out.”
What started out as the brainchild of East River Baptist Association, the Bland Ministry Center now encompasses several programs for the community that depend on volunteer efforts, including a food pantry, clothing donations, construction, a dental clinic, and other special annual programs.
“Being a student at Bluefield College has really challenged me to think about what a transformational servant leader is,” said junior volunteer Kalin Folden. “For me, it reminds me of the words of Acts 20:35: ‘In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said it is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
This year marks the sixth year in a row Bluefield College students have participated in in the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Day of Service. In addition to the work at the Bland Ministry Center, a group of students planned to participate in volunteerism at Mary’s Cradle in Bluefield, West Virginia, on January 17, but unfortunately that project was canceled due inclement weather.
“I believe it is important to serve on this day,” said junior Chaz Franqui. “If you go back and look at everything Martin Luther King, Jr. did, then I think we can take a day out of our lives and help around the community in his name.”