By Emily Younker
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Brittany Beckett’s hands were covered in paint by midmorning Monday, but the sophomore at Missouri Southern State University wasn’t complaining.
“I signed up to volunteer,” said Beckett, who is in a service-learning class. “I wanted to encourage the idea of the school being involved in volunteer work.”
Beckett joined other MSSU students Monday to paint the first 100 of a planned 3,000 wooden Stars of Hope that will be sent this fall to East Coast communities damaged by Hurricane Sandy. The project was one of several service-oriented events coordinated by the MSSU Resource Development Center in conjunction with the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.
Other events included the 12th annual MLK celebration breakfast, featuring Bernard Franklin as the keynote speaker, and an afternoon rally in which volunteers discussed King’s legacy. Volunteers also worked with Rebuild Joplin, which put on its own 24-hour rebuild project to coincide with the Day of Service.
Franklin, a motivational speaker from Kansas City, said he hoped to use King’s legacy to inspire others to service.
“An ordinary man who lived an ordinary life did something very extraordinary,” he said of the slain civil rights leader. “I just think it’s time for us to take a look at a man who in many ways brought the country together.”
Franklin said service to others could be as simple as smiling at a stranger, taking a co-worker to lunch or calling an acquaintance.
“It’s a reminder that any of us can be a King,” he said. “Any of us can make a difference in the world.”
That was what Beckett said she wanted to do as she worked at the Stars of Hope booth near the lounge of Billingsly Student Center, painting a base coat on stars and laying them on the floor to dry. The stars — hundreds of which were staked around Joplin after the May 2011 tornado — are part of a “pay it forward” service project at MSSU. In addition to the stars being planned for survivors of Hurricane Sandy, hundreds more were delivered to flood-ravaged Minot, N.D., last fall.
Beckett said volunteering for the project encourages empathy and understanding of others.
“It’s important to me because I think it’s developing the world that I would want to live in and, I think, other people would want to live in,” she said. “I feel like I get the opportunity to help other people.”
MSSU senior Jessica Hursh painted at least half a dozen stars as she passed through the student center between classes Monday morning.
“I saw this and thought it would be a good cause,” she said. “I have family back on the East Coast who were affected by Hurricane Sandy, and I just wanted to help out.”
Senior Sohaila Etemadi also dropped by the booth to paint a few stars. She was part of the MSSU group that took stars to Minot last fall, and she said she wanted to continue to support the project.
“These are going to people who have suffered tragedy, and it will hopefully bring some hope,” she said. “Plus, it’s fun; it’s relaxing; it’s a good stress reliever.”
MYRTLE LODGE NO. 149 will be the host for a Martin Luther King Jr. parade in Joplin beginning at noon Saturday. The parade will head west on Langston Hughes-Broadway from St. Louis Avenue, turn south on School Avenue and end at Ewert Park. Refreshments will be provided.