Not letting the dust settle over the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration that took place in January, Mary Baldwin University President Pamela Fox challenged faculty, staff, students, and members of the Staunton community to perform 25 acts of service all year long in honor of King’s legacy.

Fox’s challenge reflects Mary Baldwin’s commitment to creating lives of purpose and encouraging students to become confident, compassionate changemakers.

MLK 25 Banner

“This call for 25 acts of service was issued by the Martin Luther King, Jr. national organization to commemorate the 25th anniversary of celebrating King Day,” Fox said. “I want Mary Baldwin to be part of this movement, and I hope that each member of our community will take up the charge. I am keeping track of my own service, and have completed four of my acts of service thus far.”

Students also have accepted the challenge with enthusiasm, including Audrey Wong, a junior from Anchorage, Alaska. Prompted by her Community Service and Learning class, Wong initially volunteered with local organization, Rebuilding Together Augusta County.

“After the class was over, I found that I really liked working with the agency, so I continued working with them and do so to this day,” Wong said. “So far I have put in over 200 hours with the organization, and am now on the board of directors.”

Seeing the progress of your work, gaining practical knowledge and leadership skills, and experiencing the fulfillment of a job well done are some of the benefits of volunteering, Wong said. But she’s also found a deeper reward.

Audrey Wong volunteers

“One of the greatest things about the job is the satisfaction of knowing that I did something to help someone in need, that I made a difference in that person’s life,” Wong said. “Some experiences are also very humbling. I see some of the poorest conditions in this county. It really makes me grateful for what I have.

In its weekly e-newsletter, Mary Baldwin’s Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement lists five ways — both large and small — to serve. Some recent ideas included feeding the hungry, volunteering with the local Hospice, and sending a Valentine to someone in need. Staffer Robyn Stegman ’09 said the Spencer Center also is open to those looking for volunteer opportunities both on campus and within the Staunton community. There are also organizations within walking distance of Mary Baldwin that can connect students to service activities. Another way to donate to worthy causes and find volunteer opportunities, Stegman said, is through social networking.

“The MLK 25 Challenge supports [King’s] vision by challenging everyone to become leaders in the community,” Stegman said. “It recognizes that change comes not when powerful figures make huge decisions but when every person commits to a small act of service.

“By committing these acts, we ensure that we are getting out of our comfort zone, and helping out our community. We are always focused on these issues that seem really overwhelming — like environmental pollution, human trafficking — things that seem so monumental. Students have a hard time thinking about ways to fix these problems. As members of the Mary Baldwin family, we have a big influence on our community. If people band together to do small acts, it can be a lot more influential than one person attempting to do one big thing, which is important for Mary Baldwin students and staff to remember.”

There’s no shortage of local organizations that could use student help and are ready to put extra hands to work, Wong said.

“All nonprofits need volunteers,” she said. “If a student wants to volunteer, all they have to do is ask.”