On January 15, the College celebrated the great legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for the ninth consecutive year, by partnering with several local service agencies to continue the tradition of hosting NOVA’s MLK Day of Service event. Each year, the event is held to both recognize and respond to the needs of underserved local residents and struggling fellow students.
NOVA partnered with Working Students Support Network (WSSN), United Community Ministries, Shelter House, Inc., Achieving the Dream and NOVA’s Alexandria Student Life Organization to sort and package 250 baby formula and essentials care packages, 1,000 hygiene kits, 1,500 laundry supply packages, and approximately 500 pounds of non-perishable food items and canned goods to distribute to local service agencies and food pantries at NOVA campuses.
Approximately 272 people volunteered their time on MLK Day, creating assembly lines in several designated areas throughout the NOVA Alexandria Center for Design, Media and the Arts to package supplies instead of taking a day off for the national holiday. NOVA President Scott Ralls acknowledged the volunteers’ efforts and sacrifice by joining in at the event.
“On this special day, we are translating words into action,” said Ralls. “In 1957, Dr. King posed the question, life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others? Today, we are answering that very important question by using this day off as a “day on.” In 2018, I challenge all of us to continue to think with persistence and urgency about what we can do to help others.”
In Fall 2016, NOVA students participated in a survey about their eating habits, with 47 percent stating they could not afford to eat balanced meals and 30 percent reported being hungry and not having enough money to purchase food. NOVA responded to this need to combat food insecurity by committing to open and operate a food pantry on each campus. This commitment to assist students in feeding themselves and their families is ongoing.
“At NOVA, we recognized that some of our students have food needs and cannot afford to buy personal necessities,” said Alexandria Provost Annette Haggray. “Although we have food panties at each of our six campuses, MLK Day of Service allows us to reach even more students and community members. We are pleased that we are able to extend our services to communities beyond NOVA, and we will continue the tradition of bringing people together to provide a service to our community.”
During the College’s nine years of participating in the National Day of Service, it has partnered with several nonprofit organizations and encouraged students and the local community to volunteer each year. To date, more than 2,500 students, faculty, staff and local community members have participated in the National MLK Day of Service. Mayor Allison Silberberg of the City of Alexandria attended the event and shared her gratitude to NOVA for making this event an annual staple in the Metropolitan Washington region.
“Here in Virginia, we need to work for a better day. Not just today, but for the days ahead,” Silberberg said. “This is a holiday that definitely needed to happen and we honor Dr. King’s legacy by doing for others. In November 2016, the City of Alexandria issued a statement on inclusiveness that is posted all across the city that we live by and stand on as being our foundation. The City of Alexandria values NOVA and all of its efforts to support our community.”
For additional information on NOVA’s Student Food Program, visit their website.