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Students volunteer for MLK service day

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POTSDAM — SUNY Potsdam students piled into buses and vans and set off to volunteer their time Saturday, helping the Salvation Army, Helping Hands and other groups for the college’s first Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.

More than 100 students volunteered for the event.

They were split into groups and dispatched to five locations. Some stayed close to campus, cleaning out kennels at the Potsdam Humane Society, while others took a longer trip to the Akwesasne Boys and Girls Club.

“I’m really excited about this. I’ve never worked with the Salvation Army before,” said Marissa J. Richardson, a senior from Watertown who volunteered to help the Salvation Army in Massena.

The students did a variety of jobs, such as helping out at a charity luncheon and organizing a thrift store.

Many communities do volunteer projects on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to honor the legacy of the civil rights leader, but since SUNY Potsdam’s classes started on the holiday they pushed their day of service to the weekend. The event was planned last semester, and students continued to register right up until the last minute.

“We needed to celebrate Dr. King’s life in some way,” said Sheila M. Marshall, director of SUNY Potsdam’s Center for Diversity, who organized the event.

Some of the volunteers were members of campus Greek life, and many were members of the Delta Kappa Theta fraternity.

“We’re going for community service, and to help out the Boys and Girls Club,” said Joshua F. Rishe, a junior from Ogdensburg and member of Delta Kappa Theta.

The day was created not only to honor Dr. King’s legacy and help the community, but to get students more involved in the region.

“We want students to be part of that, and see some of the needs that we have in the north country,” said professor Susan A. Stebbins, who accompanied one group to a charity lunch in Norwood.

At the end of the day the students met up back at campus for a closing program.

“We’re all going to share our experiences of what happened today,” Ms. Marshall said.

She said she hopes the service day will become an annual tradition, growing and incorporating more campus offices.

“It would be wonderful to make this a collegewide event,” she said.

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