Student volunteers from Southern Arkansas University served food and visited with senior citizens at the Columbia County Senior Meals Program Monday, Jan. 23, in honor of the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Cledis Stuart, associate dean for multiculturalism and diversity, said his office coordinated the effort with SAU’s Office of Community Involvement. The students arrived at Senior Meals about noon Monday to help in the kitchen and serve meals to the senior citizens who use the facility.

The students were to have participated in the community service event last week as part of SAU’s annual MLK Day events on Jan. 16, but bad weather prompted both Senior Meals and the Columbia County Animal Protection Society (CCAPS) to close, delaying the work.

Deana Taylor, community involvement coordinator, said events honoring Dr. King will be scheduled the last Monday of each month during the spring semester. The next community service events are set for Feb. 27, March 27 and April 24, from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

“Dr. King’s family wanted the holiday to be ‘A Day On, Not a Day Off,’” Stuart said. “Many organizations and employers have, with good intentions, made it a day off, but the King family never wanted people to take the day off without serving.”

Student members of Alpha Phi Alpha, the fraternity of which Dr. King was a member, participated in the service event. Austin Taylor, a graduating senior and accounting major, is president of Alpha Phi Alpha. He said it is important for SAU students to get involved in the community.

sauMLK Service Day - 3 Cledis Stuart

“Nothing bad can come from volunteering, only good things,” Taylor said. “It’s good to work anywhere in the community and good for SAU to be doing that work.”

The Little Rock native said that it is “important to give back” to the community and that one of the fraternity’s aims is to get involved. “I’m just glad I could help,” he said.

Students joining Taylor at Senior Meals included Emmanuel Dixon, from Hope, Ark.; Demario Reed, from Mineral Springs, Ark.; Deja Charles, Magnolia, Ark.; and Taylor Ward, from Mena, Ark.

Shelia Nash, director of Senior Meals, said she appreciated the students coming and helping. She said that in future, student volunteers would also help with some remodeling inside the center, such as taking down a wall so the dining hall can expand. They will also do other types of cleanup in and around the facility.

“Our seniors love it,” Nash said of the visiting students. “They love the interaction.”

She said the center provides hot meals to senior citizens age 60 and up. Home delivery, or “meals on wheels,” is also available. The center provides food for as many as 50 seniors per day.

Cathy McMahen, kitchen director, said that last month the center prepared 3,000 meals, about evenly divided between dine-in and home delivery. Monday, the SAU students were serving grilled chicken, broccoli and cheese noodles, corn and brownies. She said the SAU students would be encouraged to “fix plates of their own and come out and sit with the seniors and talk to them. Our seniors love talking with the younger generation. Many of these folks do not have families of their own, so they look forward to the interaction.”


Stuart said volunteers had planned to do some yard work on Monday but wet weather delayed those plans. He called Monday a “litmus test” to gauge volunteer turnout and the timing with students’ schedules.

Nash said the Center, located at 600 Leila St. in Magnolia, is always open to donations. Anyone interested in volunteering may send an email to or call (870) 235-4922.




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