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A day of service

BY ETSE G. SIKANKU | JANUARY 19, 2010 7:30 AM

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UI Provost Wallace Loh climbed ladders, knelt on the floor, and swept corridors on Monday.

It’s not the typical job for a university provost, but on this atypical day of service, Loh could be found helping clean the Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St.

He was joined by hundreds of people from the UI and the local area to commemorate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. — a man who was the very embodiment of compassion, love, and service.

“King gave his life for humanity,” Loh said. “We’re honoring the values he stood for by serving the community.”

On Monday, it appeared many people were embracing the theme of service, emphasized by President Obama.

As early as 9 a.m., crowds of people began trooping to the IMU to be dispatched to several locations for volunteer work.

Around 140 students volunteered on Monday, an increase of 20 over last year.

The annual event was organized by the UI Civic Engagement Program. Cosponsors included the Office of Student Life, the 10,000 Hours Show, and other community agencies.

Organizers for the event said there are many places in the community that continuously need help.

“We hope this encourages people to continue volunteering, meet new people and network among themselves,” said event organizer Mary Mathew Wilson.

Last year’s volunteer activities enticed UI junior Mark Rigby to return this year to work at the Johnson County Historical Society Schoolhouse, established as one of Coralville’s earliest schools in the late 19th century.

“I had a good experience last year and decided to come again to help clean the old schoolhouse,” Rigby said while grabbing a mop to clean the floor.

A few feet away, Jason Rogers conscientiously cleaned the dusty recitation platforms. The second-year dental student said the slain civil-rights leader had done so much that he would be remiss if he didn’t do his part.

Such sentiments were echoed in many parts of the city as people braved the chilly air to contribute.

“The community is everyone’s responsibility,” said UI clinical Professor Nicole Nisly, as member of the university’s Committee on Diversity who was part of the team at the Englert Theatre.

At the Trinity Episcopal Church, volunteers were greeted with the smell of baking muffins for the residents of the city’s Shelter House. Other rooms in the building were filled with both exuberant adults and their equally excited children who had gathered to make items for the homeless.

Meg Warner, the Christian formation director of the church, said a day this provides a chance for citizens to take care of the less fortunate while giving kids an outlet to learn about volunteerism.

Robbie Frerichs, a 9-year-old who attends Horn Elementary, soaked up all the lessons as he helped his mother quilt.

“I was cooking, and right now, I’m learning to make quilts,” he said. “I want to help people.”


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