Written by LaQuesha Moore
Students from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Metropolitan Community College and K-12 students around Omaha honored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a variety of volunteer opportunities throughout the metropolitan area. UNO’s Office of Civic and Social Responsibility transported the volunteers on shuttles on Jan. 20 while the campus was closed for the holiday.
Dr. Martin Luther King believed in unity, peace, integrity and standing up for change. King encouraged citizens to serve a purpose in the community by helping to solve national problems. This is exactly what students like Oluyomi Adekunle and Brendan Brown did when they dedicated their day off to community services.
Oluyomi Adekunle, “Yomi,” a junior at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, arrived at North High School around 8:30 a.m. and worked until 1 p.m., creating blankets for various organizations such as Project Harmony and Open Door Mission. The blankets were made from old T-shirts tied together. Oluyomi worked with a diverse group of about ten volunteers, some being elementary students.
“Dr. Martin Luther King represents the rights of all people. He was about bringing people together, not separating them. That is why it was worth it to volunteer,” Adekunle said.
Adekunle has participated in the MLK service day the past two years because she enjoys the personal experience.
“Last year, I went to the Open Door Mission. We cooked. I liked it because it was meeting a need,” Adekunle said.
This year was the first time Brendan Brown, a junior at UNO, volunteered for the service day. Brendan was a volunteer leader for his fraternity, Theta Chi, who combined with Lambda Chi Alpha. Brendan’s group volunteered in Fremont at a homeless shelter called Care Corps for homeless individuals and families. Their work included vacuuming, organizing a pantry and janitorial work. Brendan says the volunteering was different than 3 Days of Service because it was more significant.
“I wanted to be tired at the end of the day. I wanted to make a difference. MLK provided an outlet to end discrimination; he wanted to end it just like we want issues like hunger to end in our communities,” Brown said.
UNO is an assorted campus, with individuals from different races, religions, and backgrounds. Brown is convinced that the world has made progress, but the job is not complete.
“What [King] wanted has been accomplished, but we still have a ways to go. There’s still racism. People understand what he wanted but don’t put in the work,” Brown said.
Brown believes volunteering resonated with Dr. King’s work. He requested to have more responsibility next year for the service day.
“You can talk the talk but you have to walk the walk. As a volunteer, I wanted to contribute to his dream,” Brown said. “I would have liked to cook for a family, or meet and interact with them. Volunteering just makes you feel better. You are truly serving a purpose.”