PITTSFIELD — What better way to pay homage to Martin Luther King Jr. than to roll up one's own sleeves and assist people out in the community?
Thirty-seven Berkshire Community College students took up the challenge on Monday, better than doubling past participation figures for the college's third annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.
Some of these student volunteers dished out food to the underprivileged at First United Methodist Church, others assembled and decorated homeless care packages with children at Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center, and still others worked on the latest Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity House.
"One of [MLK's] most famous quotes is, 'Life's most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?' It's a really great message to fly with here," said Brianna Morrison, special project coordinator of BCC's Service Learning Department. "It was so many more [volunteers] than prior years, and we were able to do quite a lot."
People who attended the church luncheon said student volunteers went about the endeavor in a spirit that would have done King proud.
"I was talking to and congratulating [volunteers] on what they were doing, and one girl said to me, 'We have the day off. It's no problem. We can do it,'" Gonzalo Bermudez of Pittsfield said at the church. "She was so humble, a really commendable attitude."
The meal at First United was the only one provided to homeless or otherwise needy persons in the city on the holiday. The doors opened at 10:30 a.m. and didn't close until after 2:30 p.m.
"I was homeless once, so I know what it's like," Kathy Austin, one of the chef's preparing Monday's meal, said. "This is very important to me."
The menu included baked ziti, black bean soup, salad, hot coffee and dessert items and more.
At the Habitat ReStore building at 399 Hubbard Ave., student volunteers spent the day painting walls.
"They were only expecting us to get one wall done, but in the end we did three," Roz Broch, a library assistant at BCC, said. Broch was still speckled head to toe in white paint. "Everyone really pitched in and was enthusiastic."
Volunteers ranged from "teenagers to retirees."
"It reminds you that service is ageless; everyone was there for the same reason," Broch said.
State Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, and state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, visited the volunteers while they did their work at the community center and the Habitat building.
Similar days of service were organized in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. in places all around the country on Monday.
In Flint, Mich., volunteers helped deliver water to residents afflicted by a recent drinking water crisis.
The nonprofit Boston Cares collected materials to create "reading success kits" for area elementary schools.