Joy King

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — More than 300 Winthrop University student gathered together Jan. 21 to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day by giving back to the Rock Hill community.

The annual MLK Day of Service encourages students to honor Dr. King’s civil rights legacy through community service, rather than taking the day off.

This year, students participated in three service projects focused on environmental needs, hunger and homelessness.

“From my experience, MLK Day is my favorite day of the year,” said Patricia Riley, assistant director for student organizations and leadership at Winthrop. “It’s the only day, nationally as a university, we take a day to give back to our community collectively. Everyone is encouraged and everyone is invited.”

Each year, a committee meets to brainstorm and prepare the specific projects, which, this year, included students making mats and preparing food for the homeless.

Roughly 1,600 sandwiches and 4,000 snack bags were delivered to Renew Our Community, Bethel United Methodist Church and the Dorothy Day Soup Kitchen in Rock Hill and Urban Ministries in Charlotte.

“The eight mats that were made will be touched up and sent to Urban Ministries, because they serve the largest capacity of people,” said Laura Foster, program director of volunteer and community service for the Center for Career and Civic Engagement.

Student groups and local churches collected more than 4,000 plastic bags, which were used to make the mats, over the past few months.

“It was an easy way for me to get involved in my community as well as being productive on my day off,” said Niya James, a Winthrop junior.

Students who participate in the MLK Day of Service, James said, often do so every year of their Winthrop career.