BC awards $200k to volunteer groups for MLK week of service

Michael Gennaro

North Bureau Chief

On the third Monday in January each year, Americans observe the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a federal holiday. On this day, citizens remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dignity in the face of oppression, his compassion and most importantly, citizens remember the initiatives he took to give back to his community.

Lost among the sit-ins and the speeches is Martin Luther King Jr.’s record of giving back to his community. He protested unfair housing practices, rebuilt churches with civil rights pioneers like Jackie Robinson, and fought injustice in every form. 

On Feb. 4, 1968, when asked how he’d like to be remembered after he died, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. replied, “I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others. I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody.”

Broward College is following in MLK’s footsteps once again in 2019. The Broward College Day of Service Award Initiative is an annual initiative that is now in its fifth year. Through this initiative, Broward College awards money to volunteer groups and local non-profits to serve their communities for a day. 

This year, the initiative ran from Jan. 12 through Jan. 21, and 47 groups from numerous communities and organizations came together to follow MLK’s example and help their communities. 

The college awarded $200,000 in total this year for the initiative, and the groups volunteering focused on numerous causes, from education and veterans’ services to disaster prevention and neighborhood improvement.

In a press release, College President Gregory Haile said that, “We are so proud that our program continues to grow year over year, and that it is spurring new and innovative ways to serve the social, educational and environmental needs of the county. Three of the projects awarded were initiated by Broward College faculty, demonstrating our commitment to fostering a culture of volunteerism among our students, staff and faculty. This grant program is part of our holistic approach to supporting the development of the community at all levels.”

Each group is eligible to receive up to $5,000. The money comes from the Florida Legislature, in partnership with the MLK Day of Service Advisory Board, according to Broward College’s press release. 

Since it started five years ago, the day of service initiative has helped fund 191 service projects. According to the college, in 2018 there were more than 3,000 participants who logged more than 13,000 hours of service collectively. 

Eileen Santiago, a reading professor for the Teacher Education Program at Broward College, participated for the third straight year this year. Her project, Cuts and Books, came together on North Campus on Jan. 12 to build bookshelves and donate books to local barbershops in the community.

“Over 50 volunteers came out and helped build bookshelves and organized books for children that were donated to various barbershops in the community. Volunteers wrote inspirational messages on each of the books,” Santiago said. “The three participating barbershops are King James Cut in Pompano Beach, Barberville Barbershop in Sunrise and Gentleman’s Cuts in Davie.”

“The goal of this project is to promote literacy and bring a variety of books for children to choose from,” 

“With this grant, drawstring book bags that included writing journals, reading lights and bookmarks were also donated. The event was a huge success,” said Santiago

More than just educational projects, the day of service is a day to give back to the community in any way. 

Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale promised to plant trees to replace the trees that were uprooted by Hurricane Irma; other groups like Family Central Inc. put on workshops to help participants understand the effects of racism and implicit bias and its effects on the workforce today. 

Broward College brands it as a “day on,” not a “day off.” Volunteering in one’s community can give citizens a deep satisfaction, knowing that they are helping others. “I urge others to participate in all the upcoming events that promote Dr. King’s legacy,” Santiago said.  “This is my third year receiving the MLK grant totaling over $12,000. I will continue participating in this great initiative.”


Photo: Student volunteers write inspirational notes in books that were donated to three different barbershops in Broward County/Courtesy of Eileen Santiago

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