More than 100 parents and students of Ursuline Academy spent their day off Monday volunteering in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
This is the fifth year the Wilmington private Catholic school has organized a day of service to honor MLK Day.
“I feel like since our motto is ‘Serviam’ [I will serve], today’s volunteering connects our values with his [Martin Luther King Jr.],” said Elena Matthews, an eighth grade student.
After a morning song and prayer that lasted about 10 minutes, school leadership made remarks about the intersection of Dr. King’s community service, driven through his faith in God, and Ursuline’s commitment to Christ and contributing positively to society.
Then the students, parents and several employees broke off into stations to volunteer for about two hours.
The stations included making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the Emmanuel Dining Room, which provides Delaware’s hungry with free meals. Participants gloved up and got to work smothering jelly and peanut butter onto bread while others prepared the brown paper bags with trail mix, fruit and water bottles.
Back in the kitchen, the smells of fresh pasta dough and sauce would make any Italian grandmother proud, as volunteers prepared a lasagna dinner for residents of Sojourner’s Place, a homeless shelter in Wilmington.
A few were able to bear the freezing temperatures and participated in a park clean-up at the nearby reservoir.
Others made handmade cards for cancer patients to be delivered on Valentine’s Day via Send a Smile Today.
There was also a place to make and design wreaths as well as a grave blanket assembly to lay out at the grave sites of Veterans to show respect and gratitude for those who served.
Another station included packing pet treats to deliver to the local SPCA.
“My three boys said, ‘we’re doing service on Monday, right?,’” said Erin Barillare, a counselor at Ursuline’s Upper School and mother of three Ursuline students. “They have gotten into the routine of just wanting to give back to others, and they have learned a lot about Martin Luther King and what he stood for and what he wanted to do to help others and they want to be part of it.”
She said what she enjoys most about Ursuline’s day of service is that most children will take the day off as a time to sit at home and play video games or watch TV, while those in the school community realize giving a few hours of their time to improve the life situation of people – or pets – is well worth it.
“It’s great to be able to make sandwiches and help people that maybe can’t get a sandwich,” Matthews said. “Since we’re able to have access to these items, it’s important to make these sandwiches for the less fortunate.”
She joked that there’s no one out there that wouldn’t like a PB&J.
Her classmate, Nora Hopkins, said service is in the core of Ursuline’s culture, and being able to come together as a school community is not only fun, but it makes it easier to help others.
Barillare said that core of service was similar to the core of Dr. King’s message.
“His values are indoctrinated into our community,” she said.
She said the school always tries to instill in its students that they are very privileged and have an abundance of resources and opportunities, and there it is necessary to give a little bit of their time back to others.
“And I think that’s what Dr. King was saying,” she said. “We can all help each other no matter what status you are, no matter what race you are, we can all help each other and I think that’s what Ursuline really strives to introduce at the early ages.”
She’s been bringing her son to this day of service since he was three, she said.
“It’s just part of our values and it becomes part of their values,” she said.
Upper School Principal Jeffrey Danilak said words become flesh and words become reality, and it’s important to have events like Monday’s to hold true and put into action what is preached and taught at Ursuline.
He said it’s crucial for Ursuline to build and maintain strong relationships and partnerships with community and faith-based organizations.
The volunteer stations addressed several areas of human suffering, whether it be hunger, cancer, dying in service and homelessness.
It is amazing to see so many children not just show up, but express eagerness and excitement to give back on their day off, he said.
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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