MUSC students spend MLK Week in service

January 18, 2023
Seven women standing by a stainless steel table used for meal preparation
From left, Susannah McFaul, assistant director of Volunteer Programs and Service Learning, with student volunteers Melina Wingerter, Charlie McCall, Kimberly McClure, Morgan Moody, Julia Smoak and Elizabeth Van Swol. Photos by Harrison Huntley

Most MUSC students have but one holiday off during spring semester: Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Some use this day to travel and see family while others might use the day to catch up on their studies - or sleep. But there are some students who dedicated time on this day to serve others.


As part of MLK Week @ MUSC, the University is encouraging all MUSC community members to engage in service. Dr. King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act in 1994 and dedicated MLK Day as a day that carries on the legacy of his commitment to service. Since then, AmeriCorps, a national service organization, has encouraged everyone to “engage with their community and create constructive action” on MLK Day and the days surrounding. 

Julia Smoak, a third-year College of Pharmacy (COP) student, said the day off was a perfect opportunity to help those in need. “It is hard to find time where you have the opportunity to do stuff like this,” Smoak said. “So, days off seem like the perfect opportunity to get in here and give back to the community.”

Two women cook items over a stove 
Two students make chili for guests at the Ronald McDonald House.

The MUSC “Serve-a-thon” began on MLK Day as six students participated in a Meals That Heal event, making a chili dinner for guests of the Ronald McDonald House-Charleston. As they diced peppers, opened cans of beans and tried to avoid tears from cutting onions, the students shared in their experiences and encouraged each other. First-year students cheered on fourth-year students’ reports of residency interviews while third-year students encouraged younger students facing difficult courses. 

Melina Wingerter, a fourth-year COP student, said she appreciates events like this to get to know those around her. “I think it's a good opportunity for us to work with other students in different colleges so we can learn more about their programs and ways that we can help them,” Wingerter said. “It's nice to always hear them talk about their profession and be able to talk about ours and how we can work together in the future.”

Susannah McFaul, assistant director of Volunteer Programs and Service Learning at MUSC, has organized two other service opportunities as part of the Serve-a-thon this MLK week. “We don’t want to ask our nonprofit partners to open on a holiday if they aren’t already,” McFaul said. “We usually try to have one project day while organizing other service opportunities throughout the week.”

Since the Ronald McDonald House sits just steps from the MUSC campus, it’s usually not uncommon to see MUSC students volunteering in the kitchen. During MLK Week @ MUSC, students will have another opportunity to serve Meals That Heal. The Serve-a-thon continues on Friday, Jan. 20, where students can volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House again, or on Saturday, Jan. 21 with Charleston Habitat for Humanity. For more information, visit MUSC's MLK Week web page.