The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, “a day on, not off”

In honor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, over 70 members of the Eau Claire community — university students and adults — joined together at The Community Table on Monday in preparation for volunteering within the city.

The remembrance day of service is a part of President Obama’s initiative program called United We Stand, which encourages Americans to provide assistance throughout their communities in order to help the country recover from economic problems.

Early Childhood Literacy Intervention Program, Services and Evaluation sponsored and organized the event. ECLIPSE co-coordinator of volunteers Joshua Swalheim said although their organization focuses on occasions of service, the day of remembrance means more to those involved, including himself.

Swalheim said what he really likes about the event is continuing Martin Luther King’s legacy of serving for the ideal of dignity of all people.

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“Today people think (segregation) is less of an issue, so they might wonder why MLK Day is so important,
but it’s still important because inequalities exist among different demographics.”

At The Community Table in downtown Eau Claire, amid the smell of freshly cooked food and smiling workers in bright white aprons, conversation was abound among a huddled mass of students and other adults as they lined up in front of Swalheim, who dispersed information regarding where they would be working for the day.

Enthusiasm continued amidst student volunteers as they exited the building and made their way to locations throughout Eau Claire, including the Senior Center, Bolton Refuge House, the Sojourner House and Feed My People Food Bank.

The helpers who remained at The Community Table to mop floors and clean tables carried a positive attitude, chatting and smiling while they worked.

Senior Bailey Boelter served as a teaching assistant for a specific women’s studies course that went on the Civil Rights Pilgrimage during the winter break. She said the trip inspires students to get involved and 32 of the 90 students who had gone on the pilgrimage were there to volunteer, including the entire class of 20 people.

“We decided as a class that we wanted to spend today to honor Dr. King’s legacy,” Boelter said. “I think it adds extra meaning to the service. He would’ve wanted this to happen in remembrance of him.”

Associate Dean of Students Jodi Thesing-Ritter, who coordinates the Civil Rights Pilgrimage, said the day is especially important in emphasizing to students the good they can do within their community.

“I think it’s a wonderful way to celebrate the public service that (Martin Luther King Jr.) gave to our nation,” Thesing-Ritter said. “It’s also a fantastic way for our students to recognize the importance of civic engagement, both in activism and as indirect service like we’re doing today.”

Thesing-Ritter added that many of the students who went south to learn more about the Civil Rights Movement through a women’s studies course embraced the projects they prepared, often following through even when no credit was given due to the class ending. She said occasions like this one have given them a new perspective on their impact within the community.

“A day like this gives them an example of how you can get a group of students together to make change,” Thesing-Ritter said.

The day concluded with a Martin Luther King Remembrance sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs at St. James the Greater Church in Eau Claire, where King’s speeches were read by community members as well as elementary and middle school students.

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day, “a day on, not off”