Students celebrate MLK Day by serving the community
A new community park will soon be opening in downtown Greenville, and Monday, 74 Furman students were there to help park organizers get ready.
Despite below freezing temperatures in the morning, dozens of students in work clothes converged on the Cancer Survivors Park, located between Church and Cleveland streets, to collect garbage, remove tree limbs, and work on park landscaping.
And they didn’t hesitate to get their hands dirty. By the end of the morning, students clad in orange safety vests had collected 65 contractor-sized bags of garbage, five tires, several cement blocks, and an old grill for disposal.
After assisting at the same location last year, accounting major Richard Hawkins ’18 said he was looking forward to coming back to work at the park. “I’m happy to spend a couple of hours doing something I enjoy for someone else,” said Hawkins, as he dragged a pile of branches to a brush pile using an improvised ratchet strap.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday–A Day of Service was a partnership between United Way’s Hands on Greenville, Heller Service Corps, the Interfraternity Council, and the Office of Student Activities. Their work was featured on WYFF this week.
As part of the day’s celebration, 300 Furman students worked on community projects in eight locations across the Upstate Monday, including Safe Harbor, the Swamp Rabbit Trail, Freetown Community Center, New Washington Heights Community Center, the Cancer Survivor Park, Greenville Health System YMCA in Simpsonville, Camp Spearhead in Marietta, and Magnolias of Easley.
Approximately 25 students teamed up with senior citizens at the Magnolias of Easley to create colorful, 12-month calendars for seniors’ rooms and put together bird feeders for the assisted living facility’s courtyards and gardens.
Craig Beckner ’19 was happy to find he had something special in common with Magnolias resident Miriam Stone. She also studied at Furman many years ago. They worked together to make a personalized, seasonal calendar as a gift for Stone’s sister.
“I love that she asked me so many questions about how Furman is now,” said Beckner of Mebane, N.C. “It was great to connect with Miriam and her friends and get to know other Furman students I didn’t know before.”
Magnolia’s most senior resident, Flo Norton, 97, said she was “tickled” to be able to complete a calendar project with Frankie Pinney ’18. While she said she never had children of her own, she was happy to “adopt” one for the day.
“I appreciate you helping me,” Norton told Pinney. “I think it’s great y’all are helping us on your volunteer day.”
Cancer Survivors Park Executive Director Kay Roper and Development and Administrative Associate Heidi McCall were glad to have many extra hands available as they prepare for the opening of the first section of the park, a 1,200 square-foot boardwalk.
The 6.8 acre park is located below the Chamber of Commerce building and stretches from the edge of Falls Park at Church Street to the edge of Cleveland Park at the Cleveland Street Bridge, according to park officials.
“It’s such a neat idea,” said Liza Veilleux ’16, a history major who plans to teach secondary level social studies. “I wanted to help (with the park clean-up) so that Martin Luther King Jr. Day wasn’t just another holiday. It’s important to take advantage of opportunities to serve and remember why we celebrate the day.”
“I was so impressed by our Furman students, faculty and staff that chose to come out on an extremely cold day to make a difference in the Greenville community,” said Nancy Cooper, Furman’s coordinator of volunteer services. “This event is simply one example of the commitment that Furman consistently holds to service of others and aiding those in need.”
Participating fraternities included Beta Theta Pi, Kappa Alpha Order, Pi Kappa Phi, Sigma Chi, Sigma Nu and Tau Kappa Epsilon. Representatives from the Women’s Track Team, Hispanic Organization of Learning and Awareness (HOLA), NAACP, Student League for Black Culture, Shucker Center for Leadership Development, Heller Service Corps and Exploration of Vocation and Ministry also participated, along with members of the faculty and staff, including Brandon Inabinet, Neil Jamerson, Lori Schoen, Adam Summer, Jeff Valentine and Teddi Walker.
Featured image by Jeremy Fleming ’08.
Interior image by Amy Howard, Volunteer Outreach Coordinator for Providence Care.