Dr. Linda Dix of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Moorestown, presents information about the St. Vincent de Paul Society to eighth-grade students of the school. The students collected items for SVDP in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Courtesy photo
Dr. Linda Dix of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Moorestown, presents information about the St. Vincent de Paul Society to eighth-grade students of the school. The students collected items for SVDP in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Courtesy photo

Faithful across the Diocese of Trenton honored the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Jan. 18 by serving others.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, which was established by Congress in 1994, honors the civil rights leader on his birthday by asking Americans to use their day off from work or school to aid others.

In St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton, the Knights of Columbus Council 6530 sponsored their annual blood drive, which this year took on an even more sense of urgency.

“It has been a challenge for the Red Cross over the past year due to the pandemic. Many blood drives have had to be canceled, and blood supplies have been critically low,” explained Dean DeRose, the Knights’ council treasurer.

“We hold the blood drive on MLK Day to tie in with the spirit of community service and giving back,” the St. Joan of Arc parishioner said.

This year’s blood drive also honored the service of Sister of St. Joseph Pat Pycik, principal of St. Joan of Arc School since 1989. She has been a Sister of St. Joseph for 53 years and has ministered in Philadelphia as well as the Trenton and Camden Dioceses. 

“With the spirit of MLK Day, we honor someone in the parish community who sets an example of service. Sister Pat has served as our school principal for over 30 years and has done a wonderful job overseeing the education of the children who attend there,” DeRose said. “I know firsthand, since my daughter Alexis attended St. Joan of Arc School from kindergarten through eighth grade.”

In the weeks leading up to the blood drive, Sister Pat challenged the faith community to collect at least 75 units of blood. By the end of the day, 83 units of blood were collected.

One pint of blood donated can help to save up to three lives. The Knights’ next blood drive for the Red Cross is scheduled for Columbus Day, Oct. 11.

“COVID-19 has presented many challenges to those with health issues,” Sister Pat said. “Numerous people are in need of blood.  Many regular donors may have been ill during these pandemic days. We are hopeful that the drive would be successful, bringing life and hope to others.”  

Meanwhile, in neighboring Moorestown, students in Our Lady of Good Counsel School saw their efforts to collect toiletries for those in need come to fruition. From Jan. 4-18, students had been collecting items for the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

“It is important to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. because he made the lives of so many people better,” said fifth-grader Campbell Brown. “It was Dr. King’s mission to improve the lives of others, just like Jesus’ mission. Therefore, the best way to honor him is by giving back to our communities and to those in need.” 

Brett Anderson, head of the school’s history department, said it’s important to take part in the MLK Day of Service “to create environments for students to practice selflessness.” Past MLK observances have included creating greeting cards for seniors and donating food to be distributed across the world.

“This year has been difficult trying to find service projects, given the effects of COVID-19 and student health are our main priority,” he said. “The student council decided that despite the setbacks of this year, it was still important to observe selflessness and service. By collecting toiletries this year, we are providing for families in our communities in need of simple necessities. We take for granted the small things and want to give back in any way.” 

Brown agreed. “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a brave man who fought for the rights of all people. His words continue to inspire people to this day.

“By doing service projects, I have learned that not all people have what I have. Some people are discriminated against and are treated differently,” the youngster continued. “I am fortunate to have a home to live in, food to eat, and family to love  who love me back. Not everyone has that. 

“Through service projects, I can help to make the lives of others better.  Even if what I do puts a smile on someone’s face for just a moment, it is a good thing to do.”