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Stockton's MLK Day of Service has grown over the last two decades

  • Atlantic County

Hundreds of Stockton students, staff and faculty participated in projects in Galloway, Atlantic City, Hammonton and Woodbine as part of the university's 20th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - For 20 years, students, faculty and staff of Stockton University have spent Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day honoring the civil rights and social justice icon by committing to various projects that serve the communities where they live.

Students on the Galloway, Atlantic City, Hammonton and Woodbine campuses had the opportunity to explore more than 30 projects that ranged from smaller scale craft based creations such as making positive affirmation buttons and decorating pencil cases for local schoolchildren to deeper interactions with community members like Stories of Atlantic City's storytelling stations.

Inspired by Zakat, an Islamic principle that encourages charity, the Muslim Student Association hosted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich making party for their day of service project. Around 30 volunteers made over 100 bags of sandwiches, which will benefit the Atlantic City Rescue Mission.

It's always an honor and humbling to be able to do these sorts of events, and to be able to help the community come together by hosting an event is even more meaningful to us, said Ahnjeles Maldonado, a Health Science major and the public relations chair for MSA.

Ann Delva, president of the Caribbean Student Association, said the organization was inspired to craft handmade cards for local nursing homes by a program within the Stockton Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning that promoted playing games and socializing with older adults. Delva said about 40 volunteers created more than 100 cards on Monday.

I feel like this is a great way for us to restart the semester, the Business Accounting major and Asbury Park native said. We have a lot planned for the semester, but we're starting on the right foot by starting with community service. I feel like community service is such a big thing, and that you have to get involved and give back to the community because, without them, where would we be?

For Merydawilda Colón, director of SCCESL, seeing so many volunteers after all of the work that the planning committee did organizing the projects made her feel replenished.

I'm thrilled to be here celebrating our 20th Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, and I thank you all for choosing to come here today, Colón said in her opening remarks. You could have been doing other things, and yet, you choose to come in, serve and celebrate his legacy with us.

Brian K. Jackson, who served on the first-ever MLK Day of Service planning committee, was proud of how the day has grown from an on-campus project to the largest MLK Day of Service event in South Jersey and outside of Philadelphia.

That first year drew a very small amount of people, maybe about 60 or 75 volunteers. But our event has since grown annually to involve upwards of 1,000 volunteers participating in dozens of service projects with dozens of community parties and locations throughout Galloway, Atlantic City, Hammonton, Manahawkin and Woodbine, and other communities here in South Jersey, said Jackson, chief operating officer of Stockton Atlantic City.

The day didn't just mark a momentous anniversary it also marked President Joe Bertolino's first day of service at Stockton. He visited all the sites participating and was impressed with how dedicated the Stockton community is to service.

I want you to know that your presence here today really helps us to uphold our responsibilities and commitment to the community. I think that we have a moral responsibility as members of the Stockton community to be good neighbors, and today is a great example of what it means to be a good neighbor and to reach out and to help and support those in our community, Bertolino said.

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