Chaplaincy, Africana Center hold successful MLK clothing and supply drive

The MLK Youth Homelessness Drive, sponsored by the Tufts University Chaplaincy and the Africana Center, wrapped up on Feb. 6 after collecting items for two weeks to benefit Youth on Fire, a drop-in center for homeless and street-involved youth in Cambridge, according to Joie Cummings, a college transition advisor who served on the committee of staff and students who coordinated the event.

Cummings said three medium and large sized boxes full of items were collected on the Medford/Somerville campus. This collection will be added to the items collected from the Boston campus as well, where the drive is continuing to Feb. 13, she said.

Cummings said they asked for donations of notebooks, small winter items such as gloves, hats and hand warmers, along with first aid supplies like band-aids, cough drops, sanitizing wipes and first aid kits.

The committee worked with student leaders from Capen Bible StudyCatholic Community at Tufts, Protestant Students Association, Hillel at Tufts, Campus HOPE, Multicultural Greek Council, Tufts Hindu Students Council and Tufts Freethought Society to place boxes in 10 different Medford/Somerville campus locations and to collect the donations, Cummings said.

University Chaplain Reverend Greg McGonigle said Youth on Fire came to his and the organizers’ attention as the Chaplaincy’s Program and Outreach Specialist Zachary Cole and sophomore Aviva Herr-Welber of Tufts Hillel, both of whom served as leaders for the MLK Day of Service, researched possible sites with which Tufts could partner for a service drive.

“An interesting connection is that we learned Tufts has already had a connection with Youth on Fire through the Leonard Carmichael Society’s HIV/AIDS initiative,” he told the Daily in an email.

Cummings added that while this was the first time that this committee had collected items for Youth on Fire, the Latino Center collected items for them last December.

According to McGonigle, this year the Office of the President, the University Chaplaincy and the Africana Center collaborated on three main events to honor the life and legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The first event, the MLK Day of Service, took place on Jan. 19. Approximately 60 students volunteered off campus for the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter, the Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth and Many Helping Hands 365 in Cambridge.

The second event was the Annual Community Celebration, which was held on Jan. 22 at 6 p.m. in Goddard Chapel. The event included remarks by the president and other university leaders, readings from King’s speeches by interfaith student representatives and creative contributions by S-Factor and the Spoken Word Alliance at Tufts, McGonigle said.

The final component, the Youth Homelessness Drive, was an opportunity for individuals to honor MLK even if they were not able to particpate in ceremonies on MLK day, according to McGonigle.

“We wanted to provide an opportunity for the whole campus, even if they were not able to serve with us on MLK Day, to be in service to those in need in MLK’s honor,” McGonigle said.

According to Africana Center Director Katrina Moore, this is the first time service projects have been included in the annual MLK Day celebrations and therefore the first year of the drive.

“Since students returned to campus from winter break before the MLK holiday, we were eager to extend programming with as many opportunities to honor MLK’s legacy as possible,” she told the Daily in an email. “Through our theme ‘A Revolution of Values: Poverty, Peace, Power,’ we were able to work with local community organizations in Cambridge and Boston to organize opportunities for members of the Tufts community to serve, build relationships with local service providers and put values into action.”

Moore said that while many people are aware of Dr. King’s work with civil rights, few know about his focus on poverty, peace and power during the final year of his life. These were the themes that were incorporated into this year’s celebration and service, she said.

Moore said she was pleased with the outcome of the drive.

“I would consider the project to be successful and thank the Tufts community for responding positively to our request for donations,” she said.

Cummings also expressed her enthusiasm about the drive.

This is the first year we have conducted this drive, and we are excited to have collected so many items from the Tufts community to donate to Youth on Fire,” she said.

Cummings added that they are still collecting items on the Boston campus at the Tufts University School of Medicine in the Arthur M. Sackler Center for Medical Education with the support of the Student National Medical Association and the Office of Multicultural Affairs at the School of Medicine. The Boston campus drive will be running through Feb. 13.

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