Annual MLK Day of Service at Oak Knoll

group making sandwichesMore than 100 Oak Knoll community members gathered in the Aileen Maury Dining Hall on Monday, January 15, 2024, to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a communal act of kindness. In this annual MLK Day of Service, participants volunteered their time during a school holiday to participate in a tradition jointly organized by the Oak Knoll Campus Ministry Team and the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice. 

This celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. began with a prayer service asking God to “Lead us, this Oak Knoll community, from any hatred, ignorance, fear, racism, injustice, or anything else that prevents us from being the community of love and respect that you want us to be.”

During the service, two students offered heartfelt reflections. 

Cora Laborde ’25 shared memories of her father helping unsheltered people with coffee and snacks and not understanding his motivation for helping strangers. Then, later in life, understanding the gesture after experiencing the joy of service at Oak Knoll.

“My first service day at Oak Knoll left me with a feeling I had never experienced before,” Laborde explained. “It left me with a sense of fulfillment. When we talk about fulfillment, a lot of people mean achieving goals. But I think long-term fulfillment, true fulfillment, has more to do with love.”

She went on to explain her conviction that service is about taking the time to recognize the humanity in others, especially those whom you don’t know, and loving them unconditionally. “Service is about using your gifts and abilities to strengthen a community,” she said. 

Nesa Shamdasani ’24 reflected on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and said, “Life at Oak Knoll fosters opportunities for each one of us to make a profound difference in the lives of others. I hope each of us will focus on the significance of every thought, word, and action we take, not just this morning but tomorrow and the next day. It is each one of our responsibilities to consider the question truly, what are we doing for others?”

The plethora of volunteers, including students, parents, faculty, and staff, assembled more than 1,000 lunches for Bridges Outreach, more than 100 care kits for older adults to benefit Toni’s Kitchen in Montclair, NJ, and created cards for active military and veterans, as well as patients at Overlook Medical Center. Participants donated all of the contents for care packages.