GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Six-year-old Chase Savage of Galloway has been learning about Martin Luther King Jr. at Smithville Elementary School, and he had a lot of questions.
“He didn’t understand why people were so mean to him because he looked different,” his mother, Lindsay Savage, 29, said.
New Day Family Success Center at 622 S. New York Road was the place for him to find answers on Monday. His family was sitting at the Crayon Box, one of the six stations at the center’s day of service event. The station had worksheets for the children to draw what they perceived their family to look like, and then they got to display them on the wall.
Nicole Worth, 23, of Mays Landing, a family partner at the center, said the station is one way the center is working to illustrate diversity.
“No crayon is the same,” she said. “They’re all different colors. It showcases that we are different but unique in our own ways.”
Jehron Holland, 32, of Absecon, also a family partner, was there early with Worth setting up the stations.
“Everything we do here we try to get the families involved with one another to get to know their community,” Holland said.
The service project's objective was to envision and illustrate King’s dream of bringing everyone together, and realizing that all people are different but trying to reach the same goal, he said.
While Martin Luther King Jr. Day was first observed as a federal holiday in 1986, it was not until 1994 that Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act, which designated the third Monday in January as a national day of service. It is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service — a "day on, not a day off," according to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
College campuses are one of the biggest supporters of the King day of service.
At Stockton University, about a thousand volunteers, including students, staff, faculty and community members, came together and worked on more than 40 projects all over South Jersey.
“We bring service, like community service, and the classroom and we bridge that gap,” said Daniel Fidalgo Tomé, director of service-learning. “We are of the community, with the community, and we try our hardest to be a true, good neighbor to our three counties.”
Kayla McDermott-Cobbs, 20, of Freehold, a student fellow with the university’s Office of Community Engagement, was making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the Campus Center to be delivered to displaced residents of the Charles P. Jeffries Tower Senior Apartments.
There was an electrical fire the week before at the apartment complex that left about 300 residents — many elderly and disabled — homeless.
They needed 310 sandwiches and were working at a furious pace.
“I’ve always liked being a part of the community,” McDermott-Cobbs said. “And Martin Luther King Jr. Day means giving back to my community.”
Dominique Penabad, 21, of Lodi, who is a member of the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity at the college, was working with a sewing and knitting group making hats and gloves for the Atlantic City Rescue Mission and protest pins for the Women’s March being held in cities across the country Saturday.
“It’s a time for college students to come together and do service,” she said. “It’s nice to see college kids giving back.”
Back at New Day Family Success Center, Derek Nicholson, 32, of Absecon worked on arts and crafts with his daughter, Aaliyah Robertson, 12.
“It’s good to see all different kinds of people coming together, working on projects together,” he said. “That was Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream.”