On Monday, January 18, 2021, Mercer County Community College (MCCC) will be celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day (MLK Jr. Day) with a two-part community service event.

At 9:00 a.m. on the James Kerney Campus (JKC), located at 102 North Broad Street in Trenton, members of MCCC will be collecting prepackaged donation items they call “Bags of Blessings.” All donations will be delivered to The Rescue Mission of Trenton and WomanSpace later that evening. At 3:00 p.m., a free virtual panel will be open to all members of the community as well.

“This is something that we’ve we’ve been doing for over a decade now,” said Stacy Denton, Director of Trio Upward Bound at MCCC. “This year is a little bit different because of COVID. We wanted to still do something for our community, but also maintain social distance.”

In prior years, MCCC has celebrated MLK Jr. Day with a variety of community outreach activities and donations. Initially, they were wrapping up utensils to distribute to the local soup kitchen. With time, MCCC grew confident in their donation abilities and began to do even more for the community. Denton said, “As the years go by, our projects got bigger.”

Over the years, MCCC has dedicated MLK Jr. Day to servicing the community in as many ways as possible. They have prepared peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the The Rescue Mission, collected winter coats, painted and even sold blankets for the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC).

However, after a year plagued with isolation, MCCC had to reinvent this years’ community service event. “We believe that even though there’s COVID around, this homeless population in this city is still at a large number and they are also in need,” said Denton.

After contemplation, Denton along with others in a committee, decided to collect the extra purses and bags they had within their households and fill them with essential toiletries those less fortunate may be in need of year-round. Some of the donated items collected so far include body wash, soaps, hats, scarves, tissue packets, granola bars and more.

According to Denton, this operation of individuals packing their own donation bags provides not only a safer, more socially distant element than a tradition drive, but also an element of personalization.

Denton, herself, has begun personalizing her donations. She said, “In one of the bags that I made here at home, there’s just a small note that just say that we’re thinking about you, and we’re all in this together, and we’re doing this because we love and support you.”

On MLK Jr. Day, there will be about only four individuals at JKC collecting the prepackaged donations to limit the amount of contact volunteers have with one another. Masks are required for all planning to drop off donations.

To further emphasize the importance of the day, MCCC will be hosting a virtual panel with a keynote speaker later that evening at 3:00 p.m. The hour to hour and a half long discussion will feature Dr. Pamela Pruitt, Executive Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Rider University.

“The theme for this year is the family,” said Lucia Brown, College Bursar and Interim One Stop Center Director at MCCC. “That’s a perfect theme because of the pandemic.”

She continued, “You are in close proximity now with your immediate family and you also have your extended family where you worked all day. Anyone that you spend more than eight hours with in a day, that becomes family.” According to Brown, the virtual event will be tackling the main question; ‘How is the family existing in this pandemic?’

In addition to Dr. Pruitt, the evening’s discussion will include a panel of MCCC employees there to open up discussion from many different view points. Featured in the panel is Pamala Price, Director of Library Services, Al-Lateef Farmer, Recruiter and Counselor for MCCC’s Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) and JKC Student Success Coach James White.

“They’re going to be answering questions about the family unit,” said Brown. “It’s going to be great!”

As MCCC gears up for their MLK Jr. Day of Service, as well as next months Black History Month events, the college wants to remind its very own family unit of Mercer County that MCCC always includes community.

“I highlight the word community because a lot of colleges don’t have community in their two year schools anymore,” said Brown. “We kept community because we are part of the community. We are always going to be reaching out to the community. So that’s why we like to highlight that during this time of year.”

For more information on MCCC’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/3913980981992435

To partake in the panel discussion use this Zoom link: https://mccc-edu.zoom.us/j/60956921652

*Zoom link max out at 300 participants*