EWU and Spokane community join in largest MLK Day of Service


Photo by Melanie Flint

EWU student Lakeisha Jones performs from the perspective of Dr. King Jr.’s wife

By Kalli Wolf, Staff Writer

On Jan. 18 students, faculty and staff from EWU, WSU, Gonzaga, Whitworth and SFCC came together for a Unity Rally and March, and Day of Service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.

The day started off at 9:30 a.m. at the INB Performing Arts Center in downtown Spokane. From there, the group participated in the city-wide Unity Rally and March, which is coordinated by the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center, according to Gabby Ryan, program coordinator at the Office of Community Engagement at EWU. “More than 2,500 people attend the Rally and March, which brings together citizens to celebrate the amazing work being done in the community that connects citizens to resources and serve alongside those experiencing social injustices,” Ryan said.

This will be Eastern’s third MLK Day of Service and it only continues to grow larger every year. According to Ryan, the first MLK Day of Service, held in 2014, consisted of 177 participants, while this year reached approximately 300. “For the 2016 MLK Day of Service, we chose to move to co-coordination with Gonzaga, Whitworth, local AmeriCorps members, SFCC and WSU Spokane. MLK Day of Service has always been about involving not just the EWU community, but [also] the other regional institutions and members of national service programs,” she said.

Hearth Homes, Meals on Wheels, Crosswalk Teen Shelter, Cheney Care Center, Boys and Girls Club and The Salvation Army are a few of the non-profit agencies that were served this year.

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, the MLK Day of Service has been the largest MLK Day service project coordinated in the state of Washington for the past two years. Eastern sent 125 students to serve at nine different non-profits in the Cheney and Spokane communities this year, according to Ryan. Whitworth and Gonzaga sent 40-plus students each, while WSU Spokane and SFCC sent around 70-plus each. Ryan said around 20 local AmeriCorps members also served. This totals up to nearly 360-plus volunteers, making this the largest MLK Day of Service to date, according to Ryan.

“The MLK Day of Service exists so that students can ‘spend a day on, not off.’ Participants will learn about local agencies, the populations they serve, and will become more educated on the social injustices that many citizens of Spokane face,” Ryan said.

Eastern successfully filled all 125 volunteer spots available, consisting primarily of clubs and organizations at EWU. However, all students are welcome and encouraged to participate in the MLK Day of Service events to come.

“Eastern students will spend the day moving for things that matter, uniting with their peers to meet community needs, and to grow alongside one another in service,” Ryan said.