Volunteers spend day off assembling literacy kits in honor of MLK

The 2019 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service took place at the IMU with volunteers gathering to assemble literacy kits. The kits, which include flash cards and bookmarks, will be distributed to students across Johnson County.


Jenna Galligan

Joel and Henry Gilbertson-White enjoy pizza at the Day of Service in Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Iowa Memorial Union on Monday, January 21, 2019. The pair spent the morning at Hy-Vee handing out flyers and collecting donations for the crisis center and the food pantry. Joel expressed his appreciation for “a day on rather than a day off” to honor Martin Luther King Jr.

Kate Pixley, News Reporter

The 2019 Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration of Human Rights Week kicked off Monday with the Day of Service at the IMU.

Participants assembled packages to help elementary-school children across Johnson County increase their literacy rates.

Patti Fields, the vice president for community impact and engagement of United Way of Johnson and Washington Counties, said the literacy kits would be distributed on the basis of poverty level of individual schools. She noted the effect that the literacy kits would have on the reading levels of Johnson County’s students.

“The kits will be sent to schools in Johnson County based on which schools have the highest number of impoverished students,” Fields said. “So students will receive literacy kits at kindergarten roundup.”

According to a United Way press release, the literacy kits included flash cards, bookmarks, and Scrabble games that will be distributed to both local students and United Way partner agencies.

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“Dr. King’s universal messages of justice, democracy, hope, love, and selflessness that he preached continues to inspire and move people today,” the press release said.

Saylor Sonnenburg and Anna Correa, both freshmen at the University of Iowa, said they chose to participate in the MLK Day of Service as a way to be included in the Iowa City community.

Correa said she’s passionate about volunteering and believed that it was a productive way to spend a day off.

“It was nice to do something for other people on a day where we wouldn’t normally be doing anything,” she said.

Sonnenberg said she wanted to get more involved at the UI going into the new year.

“I’m a freshman, so this was a good way to get involved and give back to the community,” Sonnenberg said.

Jenna Galligan
Latrell Burden sings as he works on a literacy kit at the Day of Service in Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Iowa Memorial Union on Monday, January 21, 2019. Latrell reflected on the amount of young people in Iowa that need assistance in terms of literacy. His favorite part of his day volunteering was “seeing so many people coming together. It’s amazing. And putting words into actions.”

The IMU issued a press release with event details and background on the importance of celebrating the Day of Service.

“Each year, on the third Monday in January, MLK Day of Service is observed as a ‘Day On, not a Day Off,’ ” the press release read. “MLK Day of Service empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, creates solutions to social problems, and moves us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a ‘Beloved Community.”

The UI also issued a press release on its website detailing the history of honoring the work of King at the UI.

“Recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birth date has been a tradition at the University of Iowa since 1969, and the national holiday has been observed through human-rights programs since its inception in 1986,” the press release read.

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Events honoring King will continue throughout the week.

Speakers include Ron Stallworth, the author of The Black Klansman and subject of the film BlacKkKlansman; Menah Pratt-Clarke, vice president for strategic affairs & vice provost for inclusion and diversity at Virginia Tech; and Raynard S. Kington, the president of Grinnell College.

A complete schedule of events can be found at 2019 Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration of Human Rights Week website.