Surplus of volunteers show for Ohio State’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service

January 20, 2014
Some OSU students wait to participate in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Jan. 20 at the Ohio Union. Credit: Andrea Henderson / Asst. multimedia editor

Some OSU students wait to participate in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Jan. 20 at the Ohio Union.
Credit: Andrea Henderson / Asst. multimedia editor

Students were invited to the Ohio Union to participate in community service projects Monday, but many were turned away.

Hundreds of students piled into the Union Monday morning to register for volunteering as a way to honor and pay tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., but more than one-third of those potential participants were turned away.

The MLK Day of Service, coordinated by Pay It Forward and the Frank W. Hale Jr. Black Cultural Center, was organized to give students the opportunity to work on various volunteer projects around the Ohio State and Columbus communities.

Students in line to register wrapped around the first and second floor of the Union, though the organizers weren’t ready for the overwhelming attendance.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service coordinator Annalisa Perez said 800 participants were sent out to service sites, but she believes about 500 people were turned away.

“We weren’t really expecting that high volume of people,” Perez said.

According to the MLK Day of Service website, the day typically draws “nearly 1,000” students.

She said a lot of volunteer sites are closed on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and that outdoor volunteer sites weren’t an option this time of year.

“We did all we could to get enough sites,” Perez said. “We’ve been calling months in advance.”

Perez said last week there were slated to be about 50 service sites, up from about 45 last year.

Even with the large number of people turned away, Perez said she stayed positive about the situation.

“I’m thrilled that there’s so many people at Ohio State that care enough to get out of bed (that) early in the morning and come out, even if they don’t get to go,” she said.

Registration for service began at 8 a.m., according to the event website.

Maggie O’Shea, a fourth-year in English, was one student who was turned away.

“It was cool to see how many people actually turned out for it,” she said. “But it’s still kind of a bummer that not everyone who woke up and came out for it could’ve done stuff.”

This was O’Shea’s first time coming out for the event. She said if she were to do it again, she would make sure to show up earlier.

“It was honestly crazy how packed it was this morning, especially that early,” O’Shea said.

Office of Student Life spokesman Dave Isaacs said in an email Monday that what happened says a lot about the OSU community.

“It is extremely gratifying that so many students are willing to make this a day on and not a day off. It says a great deal about the quality of Ohio State’s students, faculty and staff that large numbers are hearing the call to service,” Isaacs said in the email.

O’Shea said she doesn’t know if organizers could’ve planned for the crowd better, but the organizers could make it more clear in the future they will only be taking a certain number of participants.

Jack Worth, a fourth-year in health science, participated in the event with his service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega.

“We like to give back to the community any way that we can, and what better day to do it than Martin Luther King (Jr.) Day?” Worth said.

Worth said he commutes to school from his home 35 minutes away, but that didn’t stop him from making it to the event Monday morning.

“When you’re here with all your friends and you realize you’re doing something for the community, it takes all that petty stuff away,” he said. “It makes it all worthwhile.”

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  1. On behalf of Columbus Metropolitan Library who put close to 50 students to work with us, thank you for your generous support. Not all of our branches were open on Monday, but 7 of our open locations welcomed students and appreciated the help.

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