Local students, all AmeriCorps volunteers, celebrate Martin Luther King Day by serving Hospice

Published 4:19 pm Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Instead of slacking off on one of the first sunny days this month, scores of area high school seniors celebrated Martin Luther King Day by serving their community.

Forty students spent the day working in the Hospice of the Carolina Foothills (HoCF) Thrift Barn in Landrum, while others washed windows and cleaned the grounds at the nearby Smith Phayer Hospice House.

Both Landrum senior Isaiah Kirby and Chapman senior Ben Cochran had no doubt that they were in the right place at the right time. We want to be here. Its a way for us to give back to our community, especially on Martin Luther King Day, Kirby explained.

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All the student volunteers took time from busy lives that include athletics, community service and extra-curricular activities. And all are AmeriCorps volunteers, who responded to HoCF when the group sought volunteers from area high schools.

When Hospice reached out three months ago, we recognized the opportunity, said local AmeriCorps Director Matt Holmes. We went together like coffee and sugar, he said. Since the stated mission of AmeriCorps is to provide an opportunity to make a difference in your life and the lives of others around you, it is easy to see why the partnership was a good one.

That partnership was unmistakable on Monday. While it was undeniably a day of service, the Thrift Barns back room was abuzz with teenage energy, banter and laughter. There were no slackers to be found, despite the party atmosphere. Every student who signed up for the day showed up, said Holmes proudly. When asked why she was there on a school holiday instead of taking it easy, Landrum senior Brianna Jackson replied, I want to be here to help Hospice, and this is a good experience that is teaching me a lot about life and people.

We welcome the infusion of energy, a smiling Thrift Barn Assistant Manager Kyle West said above the din. They are getting a lot done. Longtime HoCF volunteer Caroline Shulz expressed her admiration for the students and their lofty career goals.

No matter what their career choices, they learn teamwork here, Thrift Barn Manager Lindsey Moore added.

Landrum senior Meghan Pitts, first-time volunteer at the Hospice Thrift Barn, said she feels her goal, to become an orthopedic surgeon, is furthered by the experience of learning the skills to work with others.

Holmes is pleased that the federal governments stimulus package has allowed him to increase student volunteers from 60 to 100, making it a win for Hospice, the students and AmeriCorps.

Lindsey Moore summed up the partnership this way: In an age of consumers, these students are learning to be contributors.

Martin Luther King said it this way: Strangely enough, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be&bsp; until I am what I ought to be. This is the way the world is made.