Hailey Goplen said she knows Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is more than a day off from school at North Dakota State.
The assistant director for service learning and civic engagement is one of many people with NDSU’s Volunteer Network helping make MLK Service Day a reality from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday. Monday honors Martin Luther King, Jr., the humanitarian who championed civil rights in the 1960s.
The day of volunteer service send participants to 40-50 nonprofits throughout the area, from Charism to the Fargo Parks District to Great Plains Food Bank.
“We have a little bit of a challenge with this event … because some nonprofits are closed on MLK Day,” Goplen said. “A lot of nonprofits just set aside tasks because they know that we have this event and so they look forward to it every year.”
Tasks range from cleanup of Christmas decorations to visiting nursing homes and childcare centers.
MLK Service Day is a smaller event compared to the Volunteer Network’s Big Event, which happens April 14.
Monday will have a morning shift and afternoon shift of volunteer work, three hours each, while the Big Event rounds up about 700 students for four shifts of volunteer work.
Goplen said about 362 students are signed up for Monday’s service work. Registration ended over the semester break.
“MLK Day, we kind of working with the nonprofits and their limits, so we typically only have 300 to 400 students,” she said.
On Monday, students learn where they will be volunteering.
“(Students) come to the Union beforehand, check in and find out where they’re going and we give them a map and send them off to the nonprofits,” Goplen said, adding that there is some confusion about the work being assigned the day of.
“We sometimes have to do some last-minute shuffling,” she said, adding that fraternities, sororities and other groups often like to work together.
Goplen has worked with MLK Service Day for two years and the event has been around for six or seven, she said.
This year, the event’s name changed from MLK Service Plunge to avoid confusion over the Special Olympics’ Polar Plunge.
“There was some confusion of students thinking they were going to jump in ice cold water and instead you’re being sent out to clean at nonprofits,” Goplen said, adding that the national event is also known as MLK Service Day, so the renaming aligns with that standard.