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Walsh Students Lend a Hand to Stark Parks, Heritage Society in Honor of Martin Luther King

More than 40 Walsh University students will commemorate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday with a day of service to the community

Stark Parks and the North Canton Heritage Society — along with other Stark County organizations — will get some helping hands Monday as Walsh University students lend their time to help out.

This year the students and staff from Walsh University will work with six community partners who address topics of education, homelessness, hunger, historical preservation, environment and elderly care. The group will spend the afternoon on-site with the community partners and have time for dinner and reflection back on campus.  

In addition to the heritage society and Stark Parks, volunteers will help the Boys and Girls Club, House of Loreto, JR Coleman Adult Daycare and Refuge of Hope.

Kathy Fernandez, executive director of the North Canton Heritage Society, said the student volunteers will be helpful in the heritage society's move from 200 Charlotte St NW to 239 Portage St. NW. (The society should be moved in to its new home on Portage in March.)

"What I'm hoping they'll be able to do is some cleaning for us," Fernandez said. "We've had to cut through a wall and dig up the floor, and it's pretty dusty where we're going to be storing our artifacts."

She said the students' involvement in the day of service could lead to a lifetime of volunteerism.

"Non-profits exist on volunteers, and it's my feeling as a person who runs a non-profit, the younger you can get the person to come and volunteer, the more they're going to do it throughout their life," she said. "I think it's a wonderful way to get students to realize volunteering is fun, for one thing, and important to other organizations."

Here's how Walsh University describes its day of service: The King Day of Service is a way to transform Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and teachings into community service that helps solve social problems. That service may meet a tangible need, such as fixing up a school or senior center, or it may meet a need of the spirit, such as building a sense of community or mutual responsibility. On this day, Americans of every age and background celebrate Dr. King through service projects that strengthen communities, empower individuals and bridge barriers.

"Students comment about their experience and most often express having fun while making a difference in the community,” said Beth Juelich-Velotta, director of service learning. “Some say that they learned about a particular organization for the first time and desire to return and carry the important work forward. In general, they come back to campus after serving with full hearts and minds.”

Cynthia Zutavern, Stark Parks volunteer coordinator, said Walsh students will help clean the Hoover Park Trail, across from their campus. It's an opportune time to do a "trail sweep" because there's not as much foliage to hide the trash, Zutavern said.

"The beauty of Stark Parks is we're in everyone's backyard; the downside of Stark Parks is we're in everyone's backyard," she said with a laugh, adding the trash from residents' trashcans can easily blow away and litter the trail.

Zutavern said the day of service is not only a win for the students, instilling a sense of volunteerism in them, but it also is a win for Stark Parks, as it brings in a new demographic of volunteers.

"We don't have a high percentage of college students in our volunteer database," she said. "Often times you think of baby boomer type generations. Plus, it makes them more aware of what Stark Parks has to offer."

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