GV celebrates MLK Day by giving back to the community

Students donate crafts to local and international nonprofits

By Erin Grogan | 1/22/14 1:19am


Bobby Springer speaking prior the silent march as a part of Grand Valley State University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day events on Monday, January 20, 2014. GVL / Robert Mathews

On Monday, 60 people spread out to various card tables and began to make lanyards, dolls, pillowcase dresses and cards. Down the hall, more volunteers crocheted hats, decorated bags for the nonprofit organization Kids Food Basket, and turned plastic bags into sleeping mats.

The event, Crafting for the Community, was held in celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and was sponsored by the Community Service Learning Center at Grand Valley State University.

The crafts created at the event were all upcycled. That is, they were created from objects that have lesser value. Colorful lanyards were made out of small rubber bands. Felt hats and scarves were made from fabric scraps.

Each craft item created at the event will be distributed to local and national nonprofit organizations.

“The lanyards will go to Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital, the scarves and hats go to the Ronald MacDonald House, and the dresses go internationally to little girls in places like Haiti who are in need of clothes,” said Valerie Jones, assistant director of Student Life.

Sally Vissers, the women and gender studies department coordinator at GVSU, is in charge of distributing the crafts.

“They mostly go to churches and missionaries,” Vissers said. “They contact me and tell me what they need, though it didn’t start out that way.”

Vissers started transforming dresses out of pillowcases after answering an advertisement.

“I made 250 dresses for this woman,” she said. “I went down to Haiti and they told me they had run out. I saw these girls lined up waiting for a new dress. Well, this isn’t new, it’s an old pillowcase, but it’s new to them. I couldn’t refuse.”

Since then, Vissers has transformed more than 6,000 pillowcases into dresses. She has also made sleeping mats from plastic bags, which are then shipped to Africa.

“Over there, lots of them have to sleep on the ground,” Vissers said. “This way they won’t sink into the mud. I’ve put handles on them so they can carry them during the day and not have to worry about them getting stolen.”

A second group of about 55 students met later in the day for a second session of the event. To find other volunteer and service opportunities, students can visit www.gvsu.edu/service.

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