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LSU Students Give Back in Honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke those immortal words, “I have a dream.” On Monday, Jan. 18, more than 100 LSU students participated in the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Celebration “Day of Service” to help fulfill King’s dream that all Americans live up to their potential and make this nation a better place.

This year, the annual “Day of Service” included painting at two residential homes and Mable’s Flower Shop, all located on Thomas H. Delpit Drive, in Old South Baton Rouge near the McKinley High School Alumni Center. Participants were afforded a hands-on opportunity to better their community while helping to celebrate and commemorate King’s legacy of service.

“This is my fifth year to do this,” said Terrell Carter, a member of the Iota Tau chapter of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity. “I got started as a freshman and enjoyed it. I do a lot of community service outside of the MLK Day of Service, but doing this to commemorate all that he did for our race is a small token but still makes you feel good inside.”

Following one of Phi Beta Sigma’s principles – brotherhood, scholarship and service – fraternity members participate in service events throughout the year. Carter and his Phi Beta Sigma brothers were among several LSU Greek organizations that participated in the “Day of Service.”

“Basically all of us come from some neighborhood in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Louisiana or the surrounding area, so giving back to the community with the fraternity is something that we love to do,” said Carter.

The “Day of Service” was the first of four highlighted service events of the year-long LSU Serves the World project, a signature activity of the LSU sesquicentennial celebration, and represents one of the university’s many ongoing community initiatives.

“People need to know that students do care,” said LSU student Paige Chenier, co-chair of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Committee. “People think that college students, and young people in general, are apathetic and that we don’t care. People need to realize that we actually do care. We care about helping others, care about community service and care about lending a helping hand.”

Evonne Thomas, the owner of Mable’s Flower Show, was pleased to learn that she was going to have help revitalizing her business. Mable’s Flower Shop, named after Thomas’ mother who started the business in 1974, received a commercial façade rehabilitation grant from the Center for Planning Excellence as part of a revitalization effort in Old South Baton Rouge.

“I found out Thursday of last week, and I was excited about it,” Thomas said of learning that LSU volunteers would help repaint her flower shop. “I went to a meeting to talk about the finished design of my business. They told me they were going to have a lot of students in the area, and they chose my business as one of the places they would be using.”

When the United States Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act, which designated the third Monday of each January as a federal holiday marking King’s Jan. 15 birthday, it was designed to be a national day of volunteer service. Americans of all ages and backgrounds were called upon to celebrate the holiday as a “day on, not a day off,” by giving back to their respective communities to help foster better understanding and relationships while promoting King’s legacy.

“One of the quotes that (the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative) committee has been working off all year is by MLK, ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?’” said Chaunda Allen, director of the LSU Office of Multicultural Affairs. “Today is the embodiment of that quote. To have the students out here on their day off, right before classes start, for them to get up early in the morning and to come out and do this service for our Old South Baton Rouge community and our neighbors is very important.”

The LSU Serves the World project was launched to honor the university’s land-grant mission, flagship position, military heritage and history of service and civic outreach. Serves the World provides an online forum to reflect on the university’s history of service, celebrate the university’s community relationships and commit to mobilizing the LSU family to serve the world more than ever before.

“We talked about how the devastation going on over in Haiti,” Allen said of her discussion with the participants before the service work began. “We told them to not only take this day, but be inspired to continue helping others throughout their lives. I’m hoping that this will keep them inspired because they have done a lot of good work.”

The 2010 LSU Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Celebration is coordinated by the LSU Office of Multicultural Affairs and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Committee. For more information about upcoming events, including the MLK Commemorative Celebration featuring Grammy-nominated and internationally renowned a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey In the Rock on Monday, Jan. 25, visit

Visit the LSU Services the World Web site at to share a service story, to learn more about service opportunities or to nominate someone for the Chancellor’s Sesquicentennial Service Award. For questions or comments, please contact


Melissa Foley | Editor | Office of Communications & University Relations
January 2010