ASHE COUNTY —Although classes were cancelled Monday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, many students from Appalachian State University chose to spend their time off volunteering with various organizations in the High Country including the Ashe County Sharing Center.
On Monday, Jan. 18 ASU celebrated the 17th anniversary of its MLK Challenge which is a day of service and education to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
According to the university, the day is intended to challenge participants intellectually, socially and physically.
Those participants met Monday morning before being divided into groups and assigned a “challenge.”
Jeremy Dale, Director of ASU Student Programs, said it was great to see students willing to come out and volunteer.
“Today’s phrase of the day is ‘a day on, instead of a day off,’” Dale said. “It’s just good to see so many come out and get assigned to groups with people they don’t necessarily know and make new friends.”
A total of 10 students were assigned to the Sharing Center with seven of those students stationed at the Northwest Ashe Mobile Pantry’s Lansing site and three sent to help with the Children’s Backpack Outreach.
According to Elizabeth Tiddy, her sorority, Kappa Delta, helps volunteer with the MLK Challenge each year.
“It’s a cool way to get involved with outside things and to help in the area that has given so much to us,” Tiddy said. “I think that we should give back because, yeah, we go to school and we have fun in Boone, but it’s good to see that there are people who aren’t as lucky as we are.”
Tiddy said she hopes that by volunteering that she can have a more well rounded understanding of the area’s struggles.
“It’s hard to think that the town that you go to college in has so much need and so much poverty and it’s all around in Watauga, Ashe and surrounding counties,” Tiddy said. “It’s a good humbling experience.”
According to Tiddy, she previously volunteered in similar events in Charlotte and appreciates the tight-knit community of Ashe County and how the Sharing Center knows most of their clients by name.
“It probably makes the people who need the food more comfortable as well,” Tiddy said.
Kelly Vannoy, who chairs the Sharing Center’s board of directors, says she is impressed with anyone who would take time off from their personal schedule to serve others.
“This is a great group. I love to see them interact with people who come in. They are really wanting a personal connection,” Vannoy said. “I’m pretty sure this is what MLK was talking about and it should be a challenge for all of us everyday to think about how we are spending our time.
As part of the MLK Challenge, the students also purchased $250 worth of soup for the Sharing Center’s first annual “Souper Bowl” Soup Drive which is currently underway and will end on Super Bowl Sunday.
The donation will help push the Sharing Center towards their goal of 10,000 cans, equal to a six months supply of soup for their pantries.
Here are the locations that will be accepting soup donations through Feb. 7:
Skyline Membership Corporation, Food Lion, Ingles, Ashe Memorial Hospital, Mt. Jefferson Presbyterian, Bethany United Methodist Church, West Jefferson United Methodist Church, First Baptist of West Jefferson, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Ashe County High School, GE Aviation, Ashe County Board of Education, Ashe County Public Library, Wilkes Community College – Ashe Campus, First Citizens Bank, State Employees Credit Union, LifeStore of Warrensville, West Jefferson and Jefferson, Yadkin Valley Bank of West Jefferson and Jefferson, Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation and Orion Baptist Church.
Hannah Myers can be reached at 336-846-7164 or on Twitter @cmedia_hmyers.