WATERVILLE— While Katy Perry tunes played in the background, Colby College freshman Aaliyah Bell, 18, scrubbed vigorously at a window in the basement of the Universalist Unitarian Church on Silver Street.
Meanwhile, Rachel Prestigiacomo, 19, polished countertops and put things away in the kitchen. The two girls were among a group of Colby College students who participated in a day of service Saturday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights activist who will be remembered nationally Monday.
“What we’re doing is a way of celebrating and giving back to the community in the same way Martin Luther King Jr. did,” Bell said. About 10 students volunteered their time to clean and organize the kitchen at the church, which serves warm meals to the hungry from its basement six nights per week.
“I don’t even remember the last time that window was cleaned,” said Maililani Bailey, the director of the Evening Sandwich Program, the soup kitchen at the church, as she watched Bell work. “We have so many volunteers working in the kitchen when we serve meals that things just come apart easily, and by the end of the day we’re too exhausted to clean.”
About 75 students from Colby participated in Saturday’s service day, which took place at six organizations around the city. They were Sunset Home, Goodwill Residential Homes, the Evening Sandwich Program, the Quarry Road Residential Center, the Waterville Humane Society and the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter.
This is the first year the college has organized a day of service in memory of King, which was inspired by President Barack Obama’s United We Serve program, a nationwide service initiative that was started in January 2013. The program also runs a national day of service in honor of King to encourage people from all walks of life to work together in solving the nation’s most pressing problems.
“We think that Martin Luther King Jr. did a lot to help the community and the United States in general, and we thought that in commemoration we should also give back to our community,” said Josh Balk, 21, a senior and the co-director of the Colby Volunteer Center.
“It’s a way to do something nice. It’s just a couple of hours of our time, but it would take so much time for someone to do this on their own,” Prestigiacomo said.
Students also volunteered at Sunset Home on College Avenue, a residential care center for women over the age of 65, where they led an afternoon game of bingo.
“I wanted to give back to people that have come before me, and this seemed like a great way to do it. I think Dr. King wanted what is best for everyone, regardless of their age or who they are,” said D’mitri Farthing, 18, a Colby freshman.
The home, which has about 20 residents, has had numerous volunteers from the college in the past, said William McKeagney, its administrator.
“I think a lot of them just really like interacting with younger people. It does help to have some extra hands to help with activities, but I think a lot of the benefit comes from the interaction between generations,” McKeagney said.
Rachel Ohm — 612-2368[email protected]