On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Northeastern State University typically holds a Day of Service event wherein students and organizations can volunteer around the campus and town to give back to the community. They do this by cleaning up debris and trash in the area, doing yard work, and performing other good deeds.

This year, however, changes have been made to the regularly scheduled event. Instead, students will write letters to individuals in care facilities who are suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kasey Rhone, coordinator of Diversity and Inclusion at NSU, hopes the letters can help bring comfort to those in need.

"With so many people in care facilities who have been literally isolated to their homes, unable to see family and friends during the pandemic, we are writing letters and making cards to let them know they are not forgotten and to help foster positive well-being in our neighbors and elders," said Rhone. "We have rotating shifts, and a registration process so we are able to properly distance students, and clean between shifts in accordance with CDC guidelines."

In 2020, the NSU Day of Service had its largest turnout, with around 300 students participating. While things may be different this year, Rhone and her staff are still optimistic students will come to support and participate. As Rhone said, though, CDC and Prevention guidelines and student safety is still a priority.

"Each slot has a limited number of seats with 30 minutes in between each shift to clean and sanitize tables, chairs and supplies," said Ernest Rollins, NSU media coordinator. "Masks are required and everyone will be socially distanced."

On the Tahlequah campus, the event will take place in the University Center Ballroom. On the Broken Arrow campus, it will be in the lobby of the Administrative Services building.

Dr. Steve Turner, president of NSU, said in an interview with Rollins that while the pandemic has definitely done damage in communities, it has reminded people of the importance of compassion and caring for others.

"Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated his life to serving others and inspired many others to do the same," said Turner. "The pandemic reminded our community about the importance of caring for others and doing one's part to help those in need. Many have answered the call to serve during difficult times and MLK Day is but another opportunity to do so and encourage us to continue to help each other into the future."

The event will take place on Monday, Jan. 18, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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