Carol Hill makes a no-sew blanket

Carol Hill, director of Student Center Facilities, makes a no-sew blanket for Project Linus during the MLK National Day of Service. Project Linus makes new blankets for children experiencing hardship or trauma. Shown in the background is Ujin Khongorzul '26. Photo: Christina Tatu

Lehigh Honors Martin Luther King’s Legacy with MLK Day of Service

Faculty, staff and students join the national observance by picking up trash, making fleece blankets for children suffering trauma, working at an animal shelter, and more.

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

Groups of Lehigh athletes and staff picked up discarded bottles and other trash along sections of public roadway near the Goodman Campus. Some in the Lehigh community took part in Project Linus, making new blankets for children experiencing hardship or trauma. Others volunteered at the Lehigh Valley Humane Society, where they walked dogs, washed dishes, made treats, cleaned and changed cat litter and socialized with the cats.

As a university-sponsored program, Lehigh had granted staff time off to volunteer for part or all of the day with local community organizations as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service, which celebrates the civil rights activist’s life and legacy. Across the country, individuals performed acts of service to make communities more equitable.

“We are part of the community,” noted Paul Pagoda, of the Lehigh Athletics events staff, as he organized three teams of Lehigh student-athletes and staff who came out Monday to pick up trash along College Drive and Creek Road in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and to honor King’s legacy.

Volunteers pick up trash on College Drive

Three teams of Lehigh student-athletes and staff came out Monday to pick up trash along College Drive and Creek Road in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and to honor King’s legacy.

Pagoda, who has “adopted” a three-mile stretch of College Drive that he routinely keeps free of trash, pointed out to the volunteers that the service was fitting on the MLK National Day of Service, given that King had been in Memphis, Tennessee, to support sanitation workers the day before his assassination in 1968.

In all, the volunteers, which included members of Lehigh’s men’s lacrosse and cross-country teams and the Development and Alumni Relations office, picked up 500-plus pounds of litter–bottles, bags and other items–as well as car tires, assorted building supplies such as laminate flooring, and an old television.

It's not just symbolic,” Pagoda said of the effort. “It's something that needs to be done.”

In Christmas-Saucon Annex on the Asa Packer Campus, Rita Jones, director of Lehigh’s Center for Gender Equity, had organized a “no sew” blanket making station for Project Linus. The nonprofit provides handmade blankets to children in the United States who are seriously ill, traumatized or otherwise in need.

Jones first heard of Project Linus last year when she was looking for volunteer opportunities. Project Linus no longer has a local chapter, but Jones decided to pitch the idea as a Martin Luther King volunteer project at Lehigh.

“I certainly want to support kids going through a really difficult time, and the idea of something that they could hold onto, I thought, ‘that’s really cute,’” Jones said. “It’s also something that’s really easy for everyone to participate in.”

Jones expected at least two dozen blankets to be made Monday. She planned to drop them off with the chapter that serves Bucks and Montgomery counties.

Carol Hill, director of Student Center Facilities, was among those participating in Project Linus Monday. Hill said she was drawn to the prospect of making no-sew blankets because it’s something that can be produced in a short amount of time but will make a difference for others.

“There’s so much going on with mental health now,” Hill said. “Just knowing this is something that could bring comfort to a child or a teenager going through a really difficult, traumatic time, that was something that was near and dear to my heart.”

Outside Goodman Campus, Lehigh lacrosse player Scott Cole ’24 and nine of his teammates joined in the litter-pickup efforts on College Drive. Cole said he wanted to give back to Lehigh—”It’s given every single one of us so much”—and show support for Pagoda’s effort in keeping the area trash-free.

That the work was being done on MLK Day of Service, he said, made the effort even more meaningful. “[King’s] a man of service,” he said. “To be able to do something, serving the community on a day like today, is awesome.”

Men’s cross-country coach Todd Etters joined the effort too, along with members of the cross-country team.

“We take a lot of pride in being members of not just the Lehigh community but the Bethlehem community,” Etters said. While the team members would have helped the effort at any time, he said, “Being able to give back on Martin Luther King Day does present more of a special feeling. I think the whole idea behind the day is being able to remember someone who gave so much to others. … It’s not too hard to make the connection as to why it's important.”

Daniele Holland, Cindy Hart, and Janele Krzywicki with wiggly pitbull puppies

Daniele Holland, Cindy Hart and Janele Krzywicki with wiggly pitbull puppies at the Lehigh Valley Humane Society. Photo: Jessica Jackson

The Office of the Provost staff volunteered for the second year in a row for the MLK Day of Service. Janele Krzywicki, director of Faculty Affairs at Lehigh coordinated the volunteer opportunity with Stephanie Skyriotis, community event coordinator at Lehigh Valley Humane Society.

“The Lehigh Valley Humane Society has been a staple of the community for almost 120 years,” Krzywicki said. “Not only do they rescue and shelter animals, but they have provided over $300,000 worth of medical financial aid to the community at their low-cost vet clinic. It’s an honor to be able to volunteer during the MLK Day of Service for an organization that consistently works to support the animals and residents of the Lehigh Valley.”

--Christina Tatu and Jessica Jackson contributed to this report.

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

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