Students at Richard Stockton College could have understandably sat around their dorm rooms or partied in their apartments Monday, the day before the spring semester began.
Instead, a record number of them turned out for the school’s ninth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, an event with a wide array of charitable programs held on campus in Galloway Township and at sites from Tuckerton to Buena Vista Township.
A group expected to reach about 800 volunteers signed up to assist in Hurricane Sandy relief efforts at the Tuckerton Seaport, to write Valentine’s Day cards and letters to dementia patients at The Shores at Wesley Manor, to assemble promotional packets for the March of Dimes and much more.
Daniel Tome, program coordinator for the office of service-learning, said that while King’s memory as an inspirational activist is the reason for the event, he thought Sandy’s impact on the state stirred many volunteers to help this year, nearly doubling the amount of volunteers from previous years.
“We’re also constantly reminding students to be civically minded,” he said.
In one of the auditoriums in the Campus Center, students applied peanut butter and jelly to stacks of white bread, sealed the sandwiches in bags and piled them in boxes that would go to the Atlantic City Rescue Mission.
At other tables in the same room, volunteers cut teddy bear shapes out of donated fabric, then sewed them together and stuffed them. The bears would go to EMTs who will use them to comfort children in emergencies.
Arielle Guadiello, a senior from Galloway and president of the community service student organization Circle K, said it meant a lot for students to get up at 8 a.m. on a day without classes to help others.
“It’s nice to see us all get together to give back,” she said.
The volunteers included individual students, student organizations and community members who wanted to lend a hand.
At the library, students Jamone Lyles, of Plainfield, Union County, and Theo Cason, of Willingboro, Burlington County, from the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, unloaded boxes of donated books that would be sorted and shipped to Africa as part of the Books Without Borders organization.
The group started about eight years ago, said faculty adviser Lakew Melaku, and it was inspired by students who traveled to Africa and saw that people there would love to have the books we throw out here.
“Our slogan is ‘Save the mind,’” said Melaku, an economics professor.
Not far away, other students cleaned up Lake Fred, and still others weeded and reinforced fencing at the Stockton Farm.
Caitlin Clark, of Bass River Township, a student and organizer at the farm, said 26 people signed up to work on the farm property, which should be operational for the first time this spring.
Students Dan Hemmerlin, of West Milford, Passaic County, and Sarah Makin, of Delran, Burlington County, joined others who shoveled a foot and a half down into the ground where they would lay netting to keep out groundhogs.
“I just wanted to work outside,” said Makin, despite the barely above freezing temperature.
Clark said she hopes the farm can become a community supported agriculture project, with locals helping and harvesting crops on the land, as an ongoing way to benefit the area.
“We definitely have high hopes for the coming season,” she said.
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