Stockton Celebrates 20 Years of Service to the Community

President Joe Bertolino made it his mission to visit every site for his first MLK Day of Service at Stockton University.

Galloway, N.J. – For 20 years, students, faculty and staff of Stockton University have come together and spent Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day honoring the civil rights and social justice icon by committing to various projects that serve the communities they live in.

Around 750 volunteers on the Galloway, Atlantic City, Hammonton and Woodbine campuses had the opportunity to explore over 30 projects that ranged from smaller-scale craft-based creations – such as making positive affirmation buttons and decorating pencil cases for local schoolchildren – to deeper interactions with community members like Stories of Atlantic City’s storytelling stations. 

Projects for the 20th Annual MLK Day of Service

Student Organizations

  • Active Minds and Social Work Club – Writing positive affirmations on buttons and painting mandalas on rocks as a therapeutic activity.
  • Caribbean Student Association – Making cards for local nursing homes.
  • Circle K International – A variety of smaller-scale craft-based service projects such as preparing snack baggies to donate to the Osprey Food Pantry, creating decorative wreaths to donate to a local nursing home, making birthday cards to donate to hospital patients and literacy flashcards to donate to underserved students.
  • Stockton Honors Program – Making cat toys for the animal shelter.
  • Los Latinos Unidos – Pencil case making for the local youth.
  • Pine Barrens Birding Club – Grounds work at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.

Partner Organizations

  • New Angles for Success – A presentation to the visiting 5th and 6th graders, a tour of the science buildings, a casting simulation in front of USC II, and a gyotaku fish printing activity.
  • Stories of Atlantic City – Three storytelling stations that encompass telling one’s own story, writing a hand-written note to a community member, creating buttons/pins that promote the SOAC project and learning about how even a small button can become a storytelling opportunity.
  • Save Barnegat Bay – Helping the Save Barnegat Bay staff promote their paid student grant program (applications open mid-January to undergraduate students) across campus by hanging fliers and sharing on social media.
  • Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Jersey Shore – Scanning and archiving important historical documents of the congregation.
  • South Jersey Cultural Alliance – Assisting in field research, photo archiving project and organizing/refiling everything in the office.
  • Church By The Bay – Sorting and hanging clothing, making hygiene kits, preparing sandwiches, stocking and organizing shelves in the food pantry.
  • Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore (Amity Acres Day Camp) – Painting picnic tables, cleaning and organizing the art room, and painting numbers on the tent structures.
  • Beacon Evangelical Free Church (Hope Chest) – Organizing and moving donated items, prepping dry food meals, and sorting donations.
  • Stockton University Newman Center – Making meals for Saint John's Hospice, a homeless shelter in Center City, Philadelphia.
  • Tiles with Smiles – Designing uplifting and inspirational tiles as gifts for senior housing residents and to decorate Our Lady Star of the Sea, with help from MudGirls Studio.
  • The Gift of Giving Hospitality Kits – Putting together gift bags of various donated toiletries and uplifting notes of encouragement for those in need.
  • AC Rescue Mission Lunch Service – Serving, preparing and assisting with lunch meal distribution.
  • Comfort and Care Buddies – Making colorful, fun hand puppets to lift the spirits of the pediatric patients of AtlantiCare Hospital.
  • Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Theta Kappa Omega Chapter – Holding an interactive workshop focused on Black maternal health and collecting donations for a Community Baby Shower.
  • Noyes Museum of Art of Stockton University & Stockton in Hammonton at Kramer Hall – Historic document transcription with Zooniverse.
  • Hammonton Family Success Center – Assembling food pantry bags.
  • Allies in Caring – Organization of program supply storage areas and possibly staining of outdoor benches.
  • Historical Society of Hammonton – Digitizing over fifty oral history binders for their website.
  • Galloway Township Ambulance Squad – Attending a CPR class.
  • Presbyterian Church of Hammonton – Sorting clothing for public distribution.
  • TheBranches – Collecting personal necessities and delivering to this nonprofit organization that supports the underprivileged residents of Cape May County.

Inspired by Zakat, an Islamic principle that encourages charity, the Muslim Student Association (MSA) hosted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich-making party for their day of service project. Around 30 volunteers made over 100 bags of sandwiches, which will benefit the Atlantic City Rescue Mission.

“It's always an honor and humbling to be able to do these sorts of events, and to be able to help the community come together by hosting an event is even more meaningful to us,” Ahnjeles Maldonado, Health Science major and public relations chair for MSA, said.

Ann Delva, president of the Caribbean Student Association, said the organization was inspired to craft handmade cards for local nursing homes by a program within the Stockton Center on Community Engagement and Service Learning (SCCESL) that promoted playing games and socializing with older adults. Delva said about 40 volunteers created more than 100 cards on Monday.

“I feel like this is a great way for us to restart the semester,” the Business – Accounting major and Asbury Park native said. “We have a lot planned for the semester, but we’re starting on the right foot by starting with community service. I feel like community service is such a big thing and that you have to get involved and give back to the community because, without them, where would we be?”  

Day of Service Community Engagement Awards Staff Recipient: Heather Medina, director of Admissions

Students posing for a photo during a project

Day of Service Community Engagement Awards Faculty Recipient: Michelle Craig McDonald, associate professor of Atlantic History

Students posing for a photo during a project

Day of Service Community Engagement Awards Graduate Recipient: Van Nhi Ho, graduate coordinator of LGBTQ+ Initiatives in the Women’s Gender & Sexuality Center

Student posing for a photo during a project

Day of Service Community Engagement Awards Undergraduate Recipient: Priya Parikh, Head TALONS, Finance and MBA major

Students posing for a photo during a project

Day of Service Community Engagement Awards Student Club/Organization Recipient: Pine Barrens Birding Club

Students posing for a photo during a project

For Merydawilda Colón, director of SCCESL, seeing so many volunteers after all of the work that the planning committee did organizing the projects made her feel “replenished.”

“I'm thrilled to be here celebrating our 20th Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, and I thank you all for choosing to come here today,” Colón said in her opening remarks. “You could have been doing other things, and yet, you choose to come in, serve and celebrate his legacy with us.”  

Brian K. Jackson, who served on the first-ever MLK Day of Service planning committee, was proud of how the day has grown from an on-campus project to “the largest MLK Day of Service event in South Jersey and outside of Philadelphia.”

“That first year drew a very small amount of people, maybe about 60 or 75 volunteers. But our event has since grown annually to involve upwards of 1,000 volunteers participating in dozens of service projects with dozens of community parties and locations throughout Galloway, Atlantic City, Hammonton, Manahawkin and Woodbine, and other communities here in South Jersey,” said Jackson, chief operating officer of Stockton – Atlantic City.

The day didn’t just mark a momentous anniversary – it also marked President Joe Bertolino’s first day of service at Stockton. He visited all the sites participating and was impressed with how dedicated the Stockton community is to service.

Day of Service Community Engagement Awards

“I want you to know that your presence here today really helps us to uphold our responsibilities and commitment to the community. I think that we have a moral responsibility as members of the Stockton community to be good neighbors, and today is a great example of what it means to be a good neighbor and to reach out and to help and support those in our community,” Bertolino said.

In addition to serving in different projects, the day honored the dedication of several Stockton community members through the annual Day of Service Community Engagement Awards over breakfast. 

Jeff Wakeman, director of Student Development, said that, despite the cold, this year saw not only more students, faculty and staff, but more alumni and Greek Life involvement.

“It’s really good to see all the people coming out and that this culture of service is still operating here at Stockton.”

– Story by Loukaia Taylor

– Photos by Lizzie Nealis and submitted by the Stockton community