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Students Contribute 1,350 Service Hours in App State’s 21st MLK Challenge

Student volunteers in Appalachian State University’s 21st annual MLK Challenge, held Jan. 20, work at Helping Hands Woodlot Ministry, located beside the Hospitality House in Boone. Overall, challenge participants contributed 1,350 hours of service to 16 local organizations. Photo by Chase Reynolds

By Megan Bruffy

Despite unexpected snow, high winds and chilly temperatures, about 150 students gathered for the 21st annual MLK Challenge — a day of reflection, education and service organized by Appalachian and the Community Together (ACT). The participants contributed 1,350 hours of service to 16 local organizations.

The annual event honors the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his message of social service, as participants accomplish challenging projects alongside community partners — all while being challenged intellectually, socially and physically. Teams of students paint, scrub, repair, organize and more at local nonprofit organizations while accompanied by graduate students, faculty or staff site leaders.

Two student volunteers help with kitchen cleaning at F.A.R.M. Cafe in Boone during Appalachian State University’s 21st annual MLK Challenge Jan. 20. Photo by Chase Reynolds

Senior Katie Feeny, a psychology major from Apex and chair of this year’s MLK Challenge event, said the goal for the day was for it to be an entry point of service, one that inspired students to serve long after the event and to understand the impact of small efforts.

“Essentially, the whole day is notable because it gives students an opportunity to help our community outside of Appalachian,” she said.

According to Feeny, one student who volunteered with Grace Builders’ Helping Hands Woodlot Ministry in Boone said she would return later in the week to continue her service work and invited others to join her. “That was very exciting to hear,” Feeny said.

As part of Appalachian State University’s 21st annual MLK Challenge, Cassidy Fulcher, a sophomore computer information systems major from Charlotte, cleans and organizes bookshelves at F.A.R.M. Cafe in Boone. Photo by Chase Reynolds

Jenny Koehn, Appalachian’s associate director of student programs, organized ACT’s first MLK Challenge in 1999. Since then, the event has become a model for campuses across the nation.

North Carolina Campus Compact, a member of a national coalition of 1,000-plus community-committed colleges and universities, wrote a $300,000 grant in 2011 to replicate the ACT program throughout the state and nation.

2020 MLK Challenge by the numbers
  • About 150 students participated.
  • 16 organizations served.
  • 1,350 service hours volunteered.
Organizations served
  • Watauga County Habitat for Humanity, App Builds a Home.
  • Appalachian Brian Estates.
  • Casting Bread Bakery.
  • Children’s Council of Watauga County.
  • Child Development Center, Appalachian State University.
  • Children’s Playhouse.
  • F.A.R.M. Cafe.
  • Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
  • Horse Helpers of the High Country.
  • Helping Hands Woodlot Ministry.
  • High Country Food Hub.
  • Hospitality House of Northwest North Carolina.
  • Jones House.
  • Legal Aid of North Carolina, Boone office.
  • Mountain Alliance.
  • Office of Sustainability, Appalachian State University.