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Penn State Students Give Up Day Off to Perform Service

‘Martin Luther King Day means giving back to the community’

By Vickie Babyak
The Tube City Almanac
January 21, 2020
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Penn State students from five Pittsburgh-area campuses, including Greater Allegheny in McKeesport, volunteered at six Mon-Yough area charitable organizations on Martin Luther King Day, including Auberle. (Vickie Babyak photo, special to Tube City Almanac)


In 1965, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told students at Oberlin College, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

When Penn State Greater Allegheny Campus reached out to the Pauline Auberle Home in McKeesport a couple of weeks ago, to find out of students could work on a service project during Martin Luther King Day 2020, the time was right, said Kayla McGrath, volunteer coordinator at Auberle.

“Penn State and Auberle have worked together before but this is the first time we’ve done this type of activity,” McGrath said. “The university was looking for organizations to plan volunteer service on a larger scale inspired by Martin Luther King Day and asked if we’d like to host volunteers.”


Auberle couldn’t have been more pleased, she said, by the students who arrived on Monday from five different Penn State campuses in Western Pennsylvania to help sort and organize donated clothes, shoes and toys.

The donations are needed for foster families who take in at-risk children and may need a certain item in a hurry.

“We get tons of donations through the year, especially during holidays,” McGrath said. “Our families don’t have much time to search for clothes and shoe sizes, or age-appropriate toys — having people go through everything is really important.” 

Martin Luther King Day is a holiday for Penn State University campuses across the state. Students from Greater Allegheny campus in McKeesport gave up their free time to join their fellow Penn Staters from campuses in Beaver, DuBois, Fayette County and New Kensington to work on service projects throughout the Mon-Yough area.


Penn State juniors Ian Tidwell and Brandon Demchak sort shoes during a day of service at Auberle in McKeesport. (Vickie Babyak photo, special to Tube City Almanac)


Team 1 was assigned to Auberle and included Ian Tidwell, a junior majoring in biology at the Beaver campus.

“Martin Luther King is my idol,” he said. “I have so much respect for what he stood for and how he fought for the people, all while he had backlash in Birmingham. Even with buses getting set on fire and rocks being thrown, he never gave up and he was relentless. He is a symbol of what is right, and his speech ‘I Have a Dream’ has so much meaning.”

Brandon Demchak, a junior majoring in psychology with a minor in human development and family studies at Fayette-Eberly Campus, was helping Tidwell and other sort clothes.

“Martin Luther King Day means giving back to the community to assist those less fortunate than myself,” he said. “I didn’t realize how much people need and that even doing little things like sorting shoes and clothes can help.”


Joseph Dusabe is a sophomore majoring in international business at Penn State New Kensington. (Vickie Babyak photo, special to Tube City Almanac)


The holiday should mean more than a day off from work and classes, said Joseph Dusabe, a sophomore majoring in international business at New Kensington Campus: “It’s a day to remember him and to serve others as he did. We can’t expect to be the same as him — he was one of a kind — but if you impact one person, it can manifest itself and eventually everyone will pay it forward.”

Several students volunteering at Auberle said the day is also an important time to reflect on King’s legacy as a civil-rights leader.


Anaya Wright and Allyson Pinchot are freshmen at Penn State Beaver. (Vickie Babyak photo, special to Tube City Almanac)


“Martin Luther King Day is a day for remembrance, and it’s a day of equality and service,” said Anaya Wright, a freshman majoring in information technology at Penn State Beaver. “It makes me feel good and productive to help other people.”

"Martin Luther King Day is a time to reflect and remember past inequalities so we don't repeat our history,” said Allyson Pinchot, a Penn State Beaver freshman majoring in mechanical engineering. “I think it's a great thing to give back to the community.”


Hassan Ismaeli and Joseph Dusabe are students at Penn State New Kensington. (Vickie Babyak photo, special to Tube City Almanac)


Hassan Ismaeli, a freshman majoring in computer science at Penn State New Kensington, said King gave his life in service to people.

“I want to follow his procedure and blueprint,” Ismaeli said. “My family owns an organization that gives to the community, we keep kids off the streets with after school programs and activities. Giving to the community is something I do often.”


Vickie Babyak is a freelance photographer and writer from Dravosburg. She may be reached at vbabyak@yahoo.com. Tube City Almanac editor Jason Togyer contributed to this story.

Originally published January 21, 2020.

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