Your time is the greatest thing you can give a community. It’s important to remember that one person can make a huge impact.
When Bridgewater State University hosted its inaugural MLK Day of Service in 2004, Vinda Butler, ’08, was one of the first students to participate, now, 20 years later, the alumna returned to BSU to once again volunteer at the annual event, this time with her 12-year-old daughter Anaiya.
“Although BSU was a place where I came to pursue my education, I immediately saw that community service was a staple on campus and it fueled my desire to help others,” she said. “Volunteering as a student allowed me to explore my interest and passion while making a positive impact in the community.”
Today Butler has carved out a career working in advocacy and currently serves as a community outreach manager for the Peabody Companies, assisting with elder care.
Over the years, Butler has continued to volunteer for a variety of causes, including serving as president of BSU’s Afro-American Alumni Association; she is presently a member of the Bridgewater Alumni Association.
When she learned BSU was looking for alumni to help with planning this year’s MLK Day of Service, she jumped at the chance.
“This year’s 20th annual MLK Day of Service is just as impactful as the very first one I attended because it continues to allow me to honor the legacy of Dr. King while making a difference,” the alumna said.
Butler, and 130 others, volunteered their time this year to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr on Jan. 20.
Sponsored by the Martin Richard Institute for Social Justice (MRISJ), the event allowed volunteers to choose from eight service projects, held both off and on campus.
While MLK Day is traditionally observed on the third Monday of January, MRISJ hosts it at the beginning of spring semester to make it easier for students to participate when they return to campus.
This year was the first that MRISJ included alumni.
“It was great to have alumni help us plan and take on leadership roles, because of their help we were able to really make this event happen in a way we haven’t done in the past,” said Jennifer Thibodeau, MRISJ director of programs.
Butler and her daughter, Anaiya, signed up to work with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Plymouth. Together with other volunteers, they worked on a home renovation.
“It was great to have BSU alumni like myself able to connect with current students and a greater community,” Butler said. “As a mother, I bring my oldest daughter to instill the value of giving back without wanting anything in return.”
Junior Summa Slater, a psychology major, also volunteered this year. She opted to work with the Coalition for Social Justice Education Fund in New Bedford where she participated in an “I Have a Dream Storytelling” workshop.
Slater works at MRISJ as an alternative break team leader. In March, over spring break, she will lead a group of students on a service project in Washington DC. She agrees with Butler as to why volunteering is important.
“When you volunteer and perform acts of service you gain a sense of community, you get to be part of something by working with others on the same goals,” she said.
Other organizations that participated in this year’s MLK Day of Service were the End Hunger New England Outreach Program, Father Bill’s & MainSpring, Gifts to Give, the Old Colony YMCA, Project PACK and School on Wheels of Massachusetts.
Beyond MLK Day of Service, MRISJ offers many different volunteer opportunities throughout the year and Butler encourages students to get involved.
“Volunteering doesn’t cost a thing,” she said. “Your time is the greatest thing you can give a community. It’s important to remember that one person can make a huge impact.”
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