Shenandoah County Students Serve Others on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service
“I just wanted to help." Liam Haley,
North Fork Middle School, Grade 6
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?’” The nearly 50 volunteers, including Shenandoah County Public School students, who ventured out on a frigid Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service can answer, “We are helping to feed those in need right here in Shenandoah County.”
“This isn’t what I thought it would be,” commented Karl Magenhofer, a news reporter from WSVA radio, who along with representatives from WHSV TV 3, the Northern Virginia Daily, and the Daily News Record, attended the MLK National Day of Service event at Stonewall Jackson High School to file news reports. Mr. Magenhofer thought that he would find students calmly packing canned food and other non-perishable items into backpacks for the Luke’s Backpack program in the County’s public schools. Luke’s Backpack, a Shenandoah Valley Lutheran ministries program, provides weekend meals for children.
Instead, Mr. Magenhofer walked into a noisy, bustling cafeteria where Shenandoah County students, parents, and grandparents from four to ninety-two years of age were working alongside federal employees hustling to package meals for local people who do not have enough food. Three cafeteria tables had assembly lines where young and old clad in plastic aprons and wearing hair nets and gloves were measuring and scooping rice, beans, and dehydrated veggies into sturdy plastic bags and then weighing, vacuum sealing, and putting identification stickers onto these bags.
Rick McNary, from Outreach International (Iowa), set-up the assembly lines and demonstrated the packing process to the volunteers at Stonewall Jackson High School (Quicksburg, VA). In the photos below, Mr. McNary is the tall man in the blue shirt.
Volunteers get suited up and ready to roll!
Rice, beans, soy powder, and dehydrated veggies,
are poured through funnel and into sturdy
plastic bag. A vitamin/seasoning packet is added to
The packet must be burped and weighed before it is sealed.
After the bag is sealed, a sticker with the date and location of production is applied--perfect job for little hands.
As they worked, volunteers introduced themselves, laughed and talked, and shouted for supplies: “We need more beans.” “We’re almost out of vitamin packets.” Cheers rang out in the cafeteria each time volunteers at a table had prepared enough bags to fill a cardboard box, which was more than 200 packets
Goal is 5,000 Bags!
After almost three hours of fast-paced labor, many celebrations, and “a lot of fun,” the Stonewall Jackson MLK team reached their goal: five thousand bags of rice and beans were ready to be distributed to local families in need.
“Each one of those 5,000 bags holds a meal that will feed a family of six,” announced Mr. McNary from Outreach International.
“I know there is a problem (with hunger) in this area,” said Liam Haley, one of the volunteers. Liam is a sixth grader at North Fork Middle School and a member of the Corhaven Kids Club. “I just wanted to help, ” he concluded.
Liam and the other volunteers did just that. They helped local families. Luke’s Backpacks for Shenandoah County students and the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry in New Market, Virginia, received the rice and bean meals and also bags of apples.
Sarah Ramey of the Virginia Gleaning Association and the Society of St. Andrew arranged for the donation of 2,100 pounds of apples from Still House Creek Orchards.
This event just fell together,” commented Mike Dorman, principal of Stonewall Jackson High School. Mr. Dorman provided the venue and a few volunteers for an event that involved not only local students and adults, but also several federal organizations.
Max Finberg, the Director of AmeriCorp/VISTA, initiated and organized the Stonewall Jackson High School MLK Day of Service event. AmeriCorp/VISTA is similar to the Peace Corp, but, as their name explains, VISTA members are Volunteers in Service to America.
Among the other volunteers were Doug O’Brien, Senior Adviser of the White House Rural Council; Leslie Jones, an employee of the United States Department of Agriculture; and Lucy Johnson, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach with the Department of Education. These individuals joined the assembly lines, circulated between the tables keeping items stocked, and joined the celebratory cheers.
Doug O'Brien (Senior Adviser of the White House Rural Council) and Lucy Jones (Deputy Assistant for Rural Outreach for the US Department of Education) volunteered with students at the SJHS MLK Day of Service.
All the volunteers at Stonewall Jackson High School on January 18, 2016, upheld the MLK Day of Service theme: “A Day On, Not a Day Off.”
Former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Harris Wofford and Atlanta Congressman John Lewis, who co-authored the King Holiday and Service Act, started the national Martin Luther King Day of Service. The King Holiday and Service Act federal legislation challenges Americans to transform the King Holiday into a day of citizen action volunteer service in honor of Dr. King. The federal legislation was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on August 23, 1994.
Photos by Betsy Bushong, SCPS Technology Department