Inaugural Johns Hopkins Day of Service honors MLK Jr.'s legacy

Staff members volunteer in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and St. Petersburg, Florida

As 15 volunteers wearing T-shirts with Martin Luther King Jr.'s image stood waiting for instructions, they received an important piece of equipment.

"When's the last time you wore a hairnet?" asked Maia Punksungka, volunteer services assistant at Moveable Feast. The team from Johns Hopkins Medicine had assembled to help prepare nutritious meals for Marylanders living with life-threatening illnesses. The volunteers traded jokes as they tucked their hair into the stretchy protectors before entering the nonprofit's industrial kitchen.

They were part of the inaugural Johns Hopkins Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, an event on Jan. 26 that sent more than 400 employees to 21 nonprofit organizations in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and St. Petersburg, Florida. The volunteers were permitted to devote part of their workday to this special institutional effort.

Video credit: Johns Hopkins Medicine

"This is something we've wanted to do for a long time," says Eloiza Domingo-Snyder, senior director and deputy chief diversity officer at Johns Hopkins Medicine. "When your neighbor needs help, you pitch in. And these are our neighbors."

Organized by the Johns Hopkins Office of Work, Life and Engagement and the Johns Hopkins Medicine Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the event was part of the January celebration of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Employees were encouraged to participate in volunteer projects, which included helping with children's school activities, unloading trucks, and painting murals.

"Volunteering is another way that Johns Hopkins can play a role in improving lives," says James Page, chief diversity officer and vice president of diversity and inclusion for JHM. "Everyone knows about our research and our patient care. But this also helps our neighbors who need it."

Although the day of service will become an annual event, he says, Page encourages Johns Hopkins employees to volunteer year-round.

The need is constant, according to Punksungka. Last year, Moveable Feast delivered more than 800,000 meals in Maryland, thanks in part to the help of Johns Hopkins volunteers. "We get students, faculty, and staff from both the hospital side and the university side," she says. "A whole lot of our regular volunteers come from Hopkins."

The day of service is one of many community outreach programs supported by Ronald J. Daniels, president of Johns Hopkins University; Paul B. Rothman, dean of the School of Medicine and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine; and other institutional leaders.

The volunteer efforts in Baltimore also included projects at Living Classrooms Foundation, Village Learning Place, Family Recovery Program, Second Chance, Our Daily Bread, Meals on Wheels, the Franciscan Center, Paul's Place, Helping Up Mission, the 6th Branch, Patterson Park Public Charter School, and Art with a Heart.

Employees in the Washington, D.C., area helped out at Martha's Table and DC Central Kitchen. At Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, 47 staffers tackled projects at R'Club Child Care, the Louise Graham Regeneration Center, Daystar Life Center, Habitat for Humanity, and the Jordan Park Community Garden.

"It was an amazing day," says Joe Conrod, human resources director at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital. "Employees are extremely excited and enthusiastic about the opportunity to serve. I am proud to be a part of an organization that takes the lead in supporting our local communities."

Marcia Adams, project manager with the Johns Hopkins University Center for Inherited Disease Research, volunteered at Art with a Heart, helping to paint an installation slated for an elementary school. The Baltimore nonprofit, located in the Hampden neighborhood, is dedicated to enhancing the lives of people in need through visual art.

"I've always been into volunteering, but so often life gets in the way," Adams says. She was inspired to join the volunteer effort by listening to activist Minnijean Brown Trickey, the keynote speaker at this year's Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, held a week before the service projects.

Art with a Heart engages more than 5,000 volunteers a year, according to Jenny Hyle Durkin, the organization's director of public art and community service. During the past decade, she says, the nonprofit has completed more than 200 elaborate public art installations around Baltimore.

Diversity officer Domingo-Snyder, who visited many of the work sites, was encouraged by the enthusiasm of Adams and the other volunteer painters.

"The energy is so high at every one of the projects," she says. "It's great to see so many Hopkins people who want to be more engaged in our communities and just make a difference."

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