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Service event boxes children's books for charity

Honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., members of the campus community aimed to empower under-served youth by shipping donated books.

Vice President of Student Life Smith Jackson assists students taking part Jan. 16 in the MLK Jr. Beloved Community "Day of Service" project in McKinnon Hall.


Dozens of Elon University students and staff joined together Monday morning in McKinnon Hall to pack more than 1,000 children’s books for shipment to impoverished schools, hospitals and orphanages around the nation.

Organized on campus by the Multicultural Center as the centerpiece of 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. Beloved Community “Day of Service,” the Jan. 16 project partnered with Kids Read Inc., a Georgia-based nonprofit founded by Elon junior Brenna Humphries to promote literacy and learning among underprivileged youth by providing new and used children’s books to poverty-stricken communities.

The Moseley Center activity included a letter-writing component from Elon students to the recipients of the books. Organizers said the letters are meant to inspire students to empower themselves through literature, and to share with children the joys of reading.

Students packaged donated books and wrote letters to children in disadvantaged communities Monday morning in McKinnon Hall.

“This is just us trying to help Brenna’s cause. We wanted to put our efforts toward one initiative,” said Leon Williams, director of Elon University’s Multicultural Center. “When we started putting on mailing labels that listed different sites and different states, it tugged at their hearts, to see there are children here in this country living in disadvantaged situations.”

The “Day of Service” book packing capped a week of campus programming honoring the life of the slain civil rights leader, who would have turned 83 on Sunday. Previous events included a march and candlelight vigil, a special College Coffee and a celebration program in Whitley Auditorium featuring scholar and national commentator Boyce Watkins.

Two long rows of tables stacked with books greeted volunteers walking into McKinnon Hall, an arrangement that afforded ample space to fill and then seal boxes headed for such locations as New York, South Carolina, Alabama and Massachusetts. Students expressed various reasons for participating in the activity.

“I thought empowering others through reading would be a great thing to get involved in,” said Elon junior Tyrice Johnson of Brooklyn, N.Y., a member of the same Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity to which King belonged. “Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream is still unfulfilled. Anything I can do to help that dream is one step forward, and one step forward is progress.”

More than 1,000 books in 21 boxes with 47 letters resulted from the project, which linked Elon with the Kids Read Inc. nonprofit in Georgia started by university junior Brenna Humphries.

Some students took part in the service event for their Winter Term studies. Senior Alexandra Garced and sophomore Stewart Finney are classmates in a “How We Should Live” philosophy class that assigned groups to find volunteer opportunities as part of their course requirements.

“I had no idea it would be this big with this many people,” said Finney, of Richmond, Va. Garced offered similar reflections. “Finding happiness isn’t just doing something for yourself,” said the native of White Plains, N.Y. “It’s doing something for others.”

Eric Townsend,
1/16/2012 11:43 AM