Stockton’s 13th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Day of Service Spans 3 Counties - and the Globe

For Immediate Release; with photos on flickr


Contact:         Maryjane Briant
                        and Susan Allen
                        News and Media Relations
                        Galloway, N.J. 08205
                        (609) 652-4593

Galloway, N.J. - From clearing brush on a horse-rescue farm, feeding the hungry in Atlantic City, loading thousands of books to be shipped to schools in Zimbabwe, making Valentine’s cards for area senior citizens and wrapping toys for children in war-torn Syria, Stockton’s Dr. Martin Luther King Day of Service reached out to the local and global communities.

The 13th Annual MLK Day of Service is the region’s largest event, with over 900 volunteers and projects involving 36 community partners at the university’s locations in Galloway, Hammonton, Manahawkin and Woodbine and in Atlantic City, President Harvey Kesselman noted at opening ceremonies on the Galloway campus. Nearly 700 volunteered in Galloway and Atlantic City alone, with over 200 additional volunteers at other locations in Atlantic, Ocean and Cape May counties.    

Later in the day, First Lady Lynne Kesselman cooked tacos on a grill in the kitchen of the Atlantic City Rescue Mission, as President Kesselman sorted clothing donations. They were joined by a number of student volunteers. At lunchtime, the Kesselmans put on aprons and gloves and began to serve the residents.

Less than a block away, students rolled a fresh coat of paint onto the mission’s new café, Hopeful Grounds. The new student-run café accepts whatever customers can pay in exchange for helping to build a community.  

Volunteers from the Surfrider Foundation’s South Jersey chapter joined Stockton volunteers and students from Our Lady Star of the Sea School in Atlantic City to clean beaches there. “It was a perfect day and we collected a lot of trash,” said Brian Jackson, co-chair (with Daniel Tomé) of MLK Day of Service and the COO of Stockton’s Atlantic City campus currently under construction.

                                                     Books Without Borders Packs Up Thousands of Books for Schools in Zimbabwe 

On the Galloway campus, students formed an assembly line starting at a storage unit, stocked with books and school supplies collected over the past three years, and ending at a 40-foot shipping container on a tractor trailer.

From student to student, the boxes made their way onto the shipping container, where another team of students organized the boxes. The container will sail to Durban, South Africa and then be trucked to Zimbabwe.

Tait Chirenje, associate professor of Environmental Studies, is working with Books Without Borders, a group that works to provide books and resources to disadvantaged schools globally, to place 45,000 donated books at schools in need in his home country, Zimbabwe.

This spring, Chirenje will travel there to distribute the books with help from his own non-governmental organization called the Gaia Environmental Trust.

Books Without Borders President Jessica Jacob, a Social Work and Communications double major, of Toms River, N.J., said, “MLK Day is the most important day of the year for Books Without Borders.”

The group relies on the manpower of volunteers to transport three years’ worth of donations. It typically takes two to three years to collect enough books to fill the storage capacity on campus.

“We couldn’t be more appreciative. I am beyond ecstatic to see it come full circle as the books are loaded onto the truck,” she said.

Sandy Leone, a staff member in Development and Alumni Affairs who lives in Galloway, N.J., was smiling as she carried boxes heavy with books, knowing that they will help improve literacy abroad. She volunteered in honor of the late Demetrios Constantelos, Distinguished Professor Emeritus. Constantelos was an author and renowned scholar who donated more than 3,000 rare and important books from his personal collection to Stockton, where they are housed in the Constantelos Hellenic Collection and Reading Room.

“There’s a great feeling of togetherness and doing for others on campus today. That’s what Stockton is all about,” Leone said.

Melaku Lakew, professor of Economics and adviser of Books Without Borders, shared a story he read in a book about a young boy from Malawi who was given a physics textbook. After reading it, he built solar panels that helped power lights in his village. Just imagine the stories that could happen with each of the books that will be shipped today, he said.

                                                        Alumni of All Ages Help Out at South Jersey All Breeds Horse Rescue Farm

At the South Jersey All Breeds Horse Rescue in Weekstown, Mullica Township, N.J., alumni from Stockton’s very first class joined the university’s most recent graduates and everyone in between, to put up a fence and clear brush to make room for a new hay barn that is being donated.

Penny Klein and Michele Bellinger, both Class of 1975, worked with Danielle Ratigan, ’16 and Katie Lyons, ’12. “We came over on the Mayflower,” said Klein, a joking reference to the Mayflower Hotel on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, where Stockton’s very first classes were held.

Members of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity worked together on a project in Galloway to help Syrian children caught in a civil war. They were wrapping gifts and writing notes in English and Arabic, included encouragements such as “Stay Strong,” and “We Care about You.”

“I love kids. I work with them at the Boys & Girls Club in Atlantic City,” said Durrell Marsh of Lakewood, N.J., in explaining why he chose this project. Marsh graduated from Stockton in May with a degree in Social Work.

Zoey Holmstrom, 6, of Mays Landing, N.J., also wrote messages for Syrian children, along with her brother, Alex, 10, and their parents, Jennifer and Jason Holmstrom, who are both alumni. Jennifer has another connection as well: “My uncle is Harvey Kesselman,” she said.

Student Senate President Maryam Sarhan, a senior from Somers Point, N.J. majoring in Political Science, said she was “inspired to do this project after feeling that Syrian children were being forgotten, with no chance to receive toys or candy over Eid or Christmas. So we are wrapping the presents with little notes inside that are meant for them.”

“It brings joy to them and that’s why I’m doing it,” said Jessica Bonsu, a Political Science major from Sicklerville, N.J.

Boy Scouts from Troop #634 in Galloway searched the web for supplemental work sheets in various topics to be used for extra credit in the Homework Completion Project run by the Stockton Center for Community Engagement in Atlantic City. The Scout troop is sponsored by the Church of the Assumption parish in Galloway.

Gamma Phi Delta and F.E.M.A.L.E.S (Focused Educated Motivated Aspiring Ladies Empowering Society) participated in “Mind Your Business,” a “Shark Tank”-like workshop in which students developed entrepreneurial business plans.

The day also included an exhibition in the Campus Center of stamps and posters from the African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey.

                                                                                Five Receive Community Engagement Awards

Members of the faculty and staff, an undergraduate and graduate student and one student organization received Community Engagement Awards at the opening ceremony. They are:

  • Christina Jackson, an assistant professor of Sociology who participates in community work in both Atlantic City and Philadelphia. She is a core team member of the Black Lives Matter Atlantic City chapter helping to facilitate monthly forums with community residents and has worked with The New Jersey Organizing Project’s Sandy Truth Project.. She has published in two books: Black California Dreamin’: The Crises of California’s African- American Communities and The Ghetto: Contemporary Global Issues and Controversies.
  • Joe Lizza, assistant director of the Campus Center for Operations & Programs, who serves on the Board of Directors for the National Association for Campus Activities (NACA). He is also a Volunteer Firefighter/EMT in Hammonton serving as Lieutenant and Secretary, and has served as program coordinator for Stockton EMS from 2011-2016. Lizza also presents regionally and nationally on topics related to emergency preparedness in higher education.
  • Jaileen Gonzalez, a senior Social Work major who will be graduating in May 2017. She has been working full-time while a student. She says she loves helping people and has had the privilege in working with the homeless population at the Atlantic City Rescue Mission as a student. Gonzalez was cited for going above and beyond to help her community including fundraising efforts, a Christmas drive for kids, and engaging with clients one-on-one using her social work skills. She is looking forward to starting to work at the Rescue Mission, and applying to graduate school. 
  • Rona Whitehead, a graduate student in the Masters of Social Work Program. Whitehead is the past activist-in-residence for Stockton and also has dedicated many years to empowering girls to become strong leaders. She is especially passionate about working with youth who have felt marginalized by society. She has developed programs and curriculum of empowerment through volunteer opportunities.
  •  Alpha Phi Omega, a national co-ed service fraternity founded on the principles of leadership, friendship and service. Stockton's chapter is only two years old but has been recognized at the state, regional, and even national level for its exceptional programs of leadership and service, including the recent Sleepout to benefit homeless youth at Covenant House. President Mackenzie Porch and her officers accepted the award.