Classes were canceled Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but one Missouri Southern State University group put King’s legacy of service to the test by giving up the morning to volunteer.
About 50 student athletes and coaches spent the morning at Children’s Haven, 701 S. Picher Ave., to help the shelter — which temporarily houses children and teens in times of family crisis — move into a new, larger home that has been built next door at 711 S. Picher Ave.
Kacie Hulse, a sophomore nursing major and member of the women’s soccer team, said she jumped on the opportunity to volunteer at Children’s Haven when her coach suggested it.
“I always like helping the community,” she said. “It makes me feel better and happy just helping with everything.”
Callie Whetstone, a sophomore biology major and member of the volleyball team, said helping Children’s Haven in its move was a way for her to give back to the Joplin community.
“The community supports us in what we do; they come to our games,” she said. “It’s just nice to be able to lend a helping hand.”
MSSU baseball coach Bryce Darnell said the service project was not only a team-building exercise for the students, but it also served to get them thinking about the world beyond Missouri Southern.
“I think it’s important that these guys understand there’s a community around them, and they need to be part of that community and be civic-minded,” he said.
Kelly Wilson, director of Advising, Counseling and Testing Services at Missouri Southern, said the service project fit perfectly with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which has become a national day of service.
“It’s known as a day on, not a day off,” Wilson said.
Nearly an hour into the project, the students and their coaches had found a workable system, forming a human assembly line that snaked between the houses as they handed off the items — including clothing and boxes of diapers and canned goods — one by one.
The new, 14,202-square-foot Children’s Haven house will double the organization’s amount of space as well as the number of children who can be served, from 12 to 24 at a time. It includes a family visiting room, an intake office, a wellness room, a nursery and a separate living room for teens. The basement includes a safe room that doubles as an activity area for youngsters.
Stephanie Theis, executive director, said the organization needed assistance moving its items from storage from the old house to the new in preparation for moving its clients next month.
“We couldn’t have done it without all their help,” she said of the Missouri Southern athletes.
CHILDREN’S HAVEN is moving into a new, larger building in part because of increased demand for its services. Stephanie Theis, executive director, previously told the Globe that the organization has seen a 40 percent sustained increase in demand since 2011.