College awarded national grant for MLK Day of Service & Reflection

A Marietta College baseball player laughs with a child at the Boys & Girls Club

Angie Scott grew up in Harmar, Marietta’s west-side neighborhood and home to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Washington County where she works as program director.

Growing up on the west side, Scott knew many families in her neighborhood living in poverty and sees some of the children who are members of the Boys & Girls Club coming from similarly disadvantaged backgrounds.

“I was born and raised on the west side of Marietta and growing up, you weren’t considered a good person if you grew up on the west side,” she said. That’s why she said a visit from Marietta College baseball players last January was nothing short of “amazing.”

The team, including Coach Brian Brewer, came to the club as part of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service & Reflection. In the past, Marietta College students had a regular day of classes on that day, but last year, the college recognized the national holiday by contributing good works throughout the community and by hosting educational sessions on civic engagement.

It was an opportunity to call students, staff and faculty to a day of service on campus and off.

Scott said the baseball players participated in an organized activity (self portraits made of cereal) and then spent time with the kids — talking, playing cards, playing pool and more.

“Marietta College athletes are like (pro) athletes to these kids,” Scott said. “It was an amazing experience for our kids … a huge ‘wow’ factor just to have those boys around and to get to know them.”

Recently, Marietta College learned it was successful in securing a grant to continue the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service & Reflection into the future. While expenses and the cost of staff and facilities were covered in full by the College in 2019, a national grant of more than $15,500 from the Corporation for National and Community Service will help offer the day of service for another year and open it up to more volunteers. The College will continue to cover the remaining costs associated with the project.

Chantal Centofanti-Fields of the Marietta College Office of Advancement helped put together the grant request. She said the goal is to encourage participants to continue helping the community beyond this day and encourage them to have an impact on their community every day.

“It’s important to reflect on the courage of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and consider what can be done to continue the social justice movement,” she said. “Marietta College is not just ‘in’ the community but ‘part’ of the community.”

The grant is guaranteed for one year but could potentially be renewed up to three years, she said.

That first Day of Service & Reflection was initiated in part by Maribeth Saleem-Tanner, Director of Civic Engagement for the College. She said the response to the initial effort was so good, the goal is to expand the service day even more this school year and watch it grow in the future. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion also helps to organize the event.

“We just saw the day as an opportunity to energize the entire campus and community,” she said. “It’s a national day of service and we wanted to be part of the national celebration.”

Last January’s service day drew participation from about 400 volunteers. The goal is to attract 600 volunteers when the event is held Jan. 20, 2020. Activities planned include packing food boxes for school children, providing supplies to the local domestic violence shelter and writing notes of encouragement to children who are hospitalized and U.S. service members. Volunteers will also work off campus with various community-based groups.

In addition to actual service projects, the grant calls for time built in for students to reflect on the community needs they encounter and discuss causes and solutions. That’s because true community service is never just for a day.

“The celebration is a cause to action,” Saleem-Tanner said. “We want students to consider the need and thoughtfully, be part of the bigger picture. One day out of your life — that’s great — but we are trying to engage students as citizens so they can understand why the needs exist.”

Saleem-Tanner is excited to see where the Day of Service can go from here.

“We have momentum,” she said. “Last year we didn’t know what to expect, but we want to respond to that enthusiasm and energy on campus and we want to be a leader in the community promoting the values of community and inclusion.”