Penn State students walked dogs and petted cats as well as cleaned, secured and moved kennels at Fayette Friends of Animals Monday as the university observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, an event that honors the legacy of the civil rights leader through volunteerism.
“My heart is full. You have no idea,’’ said Shawn Shaner, a board member for the Menallen Township animal shelter, about the assistance given by the Penn State students and the staff who accompanied them. “We’re very blessed that Penn State wanted to get involved.’’
Shaner, who has been a volunteer at the shelter for 12 years, was also giving her time on a day off from teaching in the Uniontown Area School District. She noted this assistance is important because the staff doesn’t have a lot of time for projects as they care for the shelter’s approximately 54 dogs and 65 cats.
The students were happy to offer their services.
Kirstan Webb of Uniontown, a junior at Penn State Fayette, said, “It gives me great joy to help others in the community.’’
Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus served as host for this year’s MLK Day of Service in Western Pennsylvania in which approximately 80 to 100 students participated from Penn State campuses at Fayette, Beaver, Behrand, Dubois and Greater Allegheny. The campuses rotate as hosts with the Fayette campus last hosting in 2009.
Chad Long, student affairs manager, explained participants were spending the day at seven locations, including Fayette County Community Action Inc. Food Bank, Connellsville Area Community Ministries, Crime Victims Center, Domestic Violence Services of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Mount Macrina Manor, Society of St. Vincent De Paul as well as Fayette Friends of Animals.
Noting not only the needs of the community, Long said, “Penn State Fayette just celebrated its 50th anniversary as a campus. This is the community that supported us building the campus, supports our students with scholarships and internships and hiring them when they graduate. This is our way to give back.’’
Students arrived at the Community Center where they were treated to a continental breakfast before heading into the Magerko Auditorium for a welcome by Dr. Charles Patrick, chancellor, who spoke about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who fought for social justice through non-violence.
The chancellor quoted King saying “Intelligence plus character is the goal of education.’’
Patrick told the students, “You are demonstrating your character by dedicating yourself to a day of service.’’
Long and Gwen Shoaf, campus minister, also thanked the students and showed them videos of King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream’’ speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and a TED Talk by a young woman from Chicago who was part of a group of young people from across the country who worked to persuade Congress to pass legislation in 2010 to stop Joseph Kony, of Africa, who abducted children and forced them to become soldiers.
Natalie Warne, the young woman in the video who was a teenager when she participated, noted the Kony campaign as well as King’s work happened because of the involvement of lots of people, saying “What fuels a movement are the anonymous extraordinaires behind it.’’
Shoaf told the students, “Today, you get to be an anonymous extraordinaire. You are stepping into a movement.’’
At Fayette Friends of Animals, students talked about why they decided to become involved.
Michelle Yezek of Dunbar, a freshman at Penn State Fayette, said, “My friends were very eager for me to do it, and I’m always looking for opportunities to help out where I can.’’
Cortney Hedlund of Bradford, a junior at Dubois Campus in Clearfield County, said, “I feel lucky and privileged and I want to give back.’’
Lauren Hudnall of Moon Township, who is a sophomore at Penn State Beaver where she previously volunteered, said she wanted to participate outside her community because “We’re all looking out for one another.’’
Socializing with the cats, Rebekah McFadden of Upper Darby, a freshman at Great Allegheny Campus, said, “I thought it would be fun to volunteer and meet people from other campuses.’’
Taylor McHenry, of New Kensington, a sophomore at the New Kensington Campus, said, “I like volunteering, and it’s fun getting to work with other people and make new friends.’’
Marco Lopez of McKeesport, who is a sophomore at Great Allegheny and one of several students who took turns walking dogs, said local residents have been kind to all the volunteers.
He noted, “Everyone’s been very welcoming everywhere.’’