On the national day designated for honoring slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., students and families from a Unionville-Chadds Ford elementary school used his words Monday as inspiration while performing various acts of community service.
“Everybody can be great because anybody can serve,” King had said. “You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace – a soul generated by love.”
Almost 46 years after King’s assassination, those words continue to ring true, organizers at Hillendale Elementary say.
Students, parents and volunteers at the school gathered for two hour-long “day of service” sessions Monday morning to take part in multiple opportunities to help others.
“The turnout has been great,” said principal Steve Dissinger. “Overall, in the course of the morning, we’ve probably had at any given time 150 to 200 – maybe 250 – volunteers.”
The cafeteria was filled with children and adults working at the different stations while a few others were in the kitchen baking cookies.
“We had a new project this year,” Dissinger said. “We did backpacks this year and the Hillendale community donated about 75 backpacks and then all the school supplies to go with it. We stocked all the backpacks and they’re going to be donated to La Comunidad in Kennett Square for their youths. They’ll distribute them to their needy kids.”
Along with the backpacks, volunteers helped cook 100 quarts of soup for the Catholic Social Charities in West Grove as part of the Meals on Wheels program and make 300 bag lunches for Safe Harbor in West Chester.
Children in attendance helped to bag the lunches and also worked the craft stations where they made place-mats for the soup, decorated the brown bags used for the lunches and made cards to go along with the food.
However, not all who donated their time was a member of the Hillendale community.
“When the day of service started way back with (former Superintendent) Sharon Parker, this was the first school that started to do the soup kitchen,” said Margaret Buck, a teacher at Pocopson Elementary. “When my kids were younger, we brought them here and they helped. I’ve been doing it ever since.”
The new view of Martin Luther King Day as being “a day on, not a day off” has provided people with an outlet to offer services as a family.
“What I’ve noticed in the Hillendale community and the district as well, and I’m sure in other districts, too, (is) that families are looking for opportunities to volunteer,” Dissinger said. “When a school or a school district can provide those opportunities for families, they will come. They’ll come and they’ll contribute, they’ll volunteer, they’ll donate and that’s what we’ve experienced here.”