Southern Honors Martin Luther King, Jr. Through Service for 25th Year
Every January for 25 years, Southern Adventist University students and employees have given their time to serve the Chattanooga, Tennessee, community on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This year, nearly 1,000 participants took part in Southern’s annual day of service, assisting community members and partnering with 34 organizations including the American Red Cross, Samaritan Center, and the Salvation Army.
The City of Chattanooga had also coordinated a day of service in honor of King’s legacy, marking the 50th anniversary of King’s death, and Southern joined in to commemorated this milestone. As the finale for the city’s kick-off event, Southern’s a cappella group, Voculus, and gymnastics team, Gym-Masters, gave a rousing performance. The Southern participants then had the privilege of coming alongside many other schools and Chattanooga residents to help local organizations.
“We want our students to learn the joys of serving their community,” said Jennifer Carter, director of Christian Service at Southern. “We hope to instill a desire for service in them beyond their college career.”
Knitted with Love
A special project that Southern has helped with on MLK Day for a number of years is the Street Store—a temporary store set up to provide free warm clothing to the homeless, in partnership with the Salvation Army. On the day of the event, Southern students help set up, organize clothes, and serve as personal shoppers for the homeless customers.
Ahead of time, Annette Heck, associate professor in Southern’s School of Social Work, helps prepare for the event by collecting donations of winter clothing on campus and at local churches. It turns out that her spirit of service is contagious; Heck’s grandmother, Grasi Suarez-Benitez, a retired resident in Florida, learned about Heck’s efforts. Unbeknownst to Heck, last year she began knitting hats for the Street Store because she wanted those in need to be warm and to know that they are cared for.
Suarez-Benitez sent them to Heck a few at a time, and before they knew it, the number of hand-knit hats filled several grocery bags—110 hats in all colors and patterns, each made with love.
“My grandmother had no idea how many she had made,” Heck said. “When I laid the hats out and counted them, she was quite emotional to see how her work all year long had made an immense impact.”