TUCKERMAN, AR (KAIT) – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was once quoted as saying, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'"
Thousands of Americans try to answer that question each year by coming together on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to serve their communities.
While some regard the day marking King's birthday as a holiday from work or school, many more recognize it as the MLK Day of Service. This year, more than a dozen students from Tuckerman High School decided to give back in King's honor by making sure their local food pantry could feed everyone in need.
"We want everybody to realize this is an important day," Jan Paschal said about King's birthday. "If you're old like I am, you know that a lot of us had to fight a long, long time to have civil rights even be an issue, and today it should be about rights for all people – that we're all going to be about taking care of those in need. For those who don't care about those who are hungry, maybe it's a good day to let your heart be your guide and think about what you can do to help."
Paschal serves as president of Every Child is Ours, the food pantry in Tuckerman that serves hundreds of families each month. She usually has a lot of help to stock the pantry shelves and hand out food to people in need. On Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, she pulled in a group of Tuckerman High School students to help out and hoped that they gained a sense of pride from doing so.
"We think it's important for [the students] to know that everybody has to pull their own weight and help each other at the same time," Paschal said. "They come in, and they work hard carrying boxes and helping us get them weighed and on the shelves. But they also carry out things for the elderly. It's a feeling of coming together and working as one, and I think when you have your city workers and your firefighters and your school kids [helping], you've got to be doing something right."
She would like the students to recognize how great the need is in the area of Jackson County that the food pantry serves. Every Child is Ours provides boxes of food to more than 500 families each month. She also hopes that the students are inspired to give back later in life seeing all the adults who volunteer their time to help out the less fortunate.
"We have to remember everybody has needs," Paschal said, "but everybody can be of help."
The Tuckerman High School students came Monday to unload a shipment of food from a truck. They did some heavy lifting and then helped organize all the deliveries. While students from the local school usually come once or twice a month to volunteer at the food pantry, Sandra Provence, the Jackson County school board president, says there is no better time to do so than on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
"Giving is so rewarding – it is," said Provence, who volunteers at the food pantry several times a week. "It's a great reward. The sooner you learn that, the better person you become."
Senior Trey Thornton has volunteered at the food pantry for three years now and hopes some of the younger students behind him in school carry on that tradition of community service.
"Being able to learn that I'm helping others is such a great thing," Thornton said. "I can lie down in bed at night and know that there's someone who's fed and is going to have another meal, and it just teaches you so much."
Sophomore Austin Butler, who started donating his time at the food pantry last year, says he has learned that it only takes a little amount of time to make a difference.
"I just think it's awesome we can help other people and that even us as younger kids can have a chance to help everybody out," Butler said.
Paschal championed the students for giving back on MLK Day, but she'd like to see everyone extend a helping hand all year long to truly keep King's legacy alive.
"Every Child is Ours is involved in a lot of ways in helping people in our community, but we should be," Paschal said. "In all those communities that don't have something like we have, you ought to. You ought to be out there working and helping and being part of the solution."
"If we work together and we have a common purpose as did Dr. Martin Luther King, then we'll be okay," she added.