Martin Luther King Jr. was a man who dedicated his life to those who were overlooked in society, according to Assistant Director of Student Activities for Orientation and Coordinator of Parent/Family Programs Steven Freck. For the past three years, the University of Indianapolis has participated in a service project dedicated to honoring that legacy. Partnered with Pack Away Hunger, around 80 students and faculty and staff members got together on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to prepare over 56,000 meal packs for the less fortunate in Indianapolis, according to Vice President for Student and Campus Affairs Kory Vitangeli.
Pack Away Hunger is a nonprofit organization that provides meal ready replacements both locally and globally. Vitangeli said it is important to emphasize the local aspect of Pack Away Hunger by allowing the students to give back to the community surrounding them.
“We wanted to do a service project in which anything that we did would stay within the local Indianapolis community,” said Vitangeli. “It’s really important for the university to be an anchor on the south side, and so we want to support all efforts and initiatives that are happening within the city.”
Participants gathered in the Shreve Atrium at 10 a.m. on Jan. 15 to begin making the meal packs. Students and faculty worked in tandem, forming assembly lines which had a variety of jobs: putting the meal replacements in bags, sealing the bags, and packing them away in the boxes. Each meal pack can feed a family of six, and provides all the nutrients that a person can get out of a full day’s meal. According to Vitangeli, all the meals prepared will stay at shelters or food banks in the Indianapolis community.
Vitangeli said that this project makes an impact not only on the less fortunate in Indy, but also on the students themselves. Unlike simple donations, this particular project allowed a more hands-on approach to service.
“The students… actually see the fruits of their labor,” said Vitangeli. “They know the difference that they’re making by putting this meal together for families who may not have food to eat.”
Vitangeli also said that an important tenet at the university is “education for service.” That motto, coupled with the significance of working on a day dedicated to King, provided the backdrop for that day of service: a time to honor both King’s legacy, as well as an important school mantra. After all of the meals were packed away, the participants shared a meal together comprised of King’s favorite foods, said Vitangeli.
According to Vitangeli, the community involved was expansive, including not only UIndy faculty and students, but families of those students, and even a Boys and Girls Club.
“I think this event, working with Pack Away Hunger and doing service on Martin Luther King Jr. day, has really become a tradition at the university, and every year it becomes a little bit more fulfilling because we have more and more people sign up,” Vitangeli said. “It just shows that we’re really connected, both to the city of Indianapolis and in living out our motto.”