Hundreds volunteer in "A day on, not a day off" call to service

Lawton_"A day on, not a day off" is how many celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day on Monday.  Saluting King's dedication to community, President-Elect Barack Obama took part in the day of service by visiting a homeless shelter for teens in the Washington, D.C., area where he painted a wall to show his commitment to public service.  Vice President-Elect Joe Biden measured, cut, and hammered on Monday, spending almost an hour helping volunteers build a home for Habitat for Humanity.

In Lawton, Cameron University students, teens, and even the Lawton-Fort sill Cavalry got involved in the day of service.  Cameron gave students the day off from classes in honor of Dr. King, and almost 300 volunteers celebrated by working on an early spring-cleaning for the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club.

The Boys and Girls Club was treated to hoards of students who wanted to make the center a better place.  "I wanted to help the community, and help the kids in the community," said Cameron University Student Amanda Finch.  "I had the day off of school, so I thought it was a great opportunity to have a day on, not a day off."

Volunteering on this holiday was a reinforcement of King's message.  "Part of Martin Luther King's message was that we need to be giving back to our community, and we need to be investing in the place where we live," said Cameron University Dean of Student Services, Jennifer Holland.

An investment not of money, but of time and effort, took a financial burden off of the club.  "It would cost us thousands of dollars to get this actually done if we hired someone to do it," said Christal Durham with the Boys and Girls Club.  Had the center's six staff members attempted to accomplish the task themselves, it would have taken weeks to complete.  However, with community involvement it took only a few hours.  "It is absolutely unbelievable that we could get this many people to come down to the club and help volunteer," she said.

Some of Cameron's student-teachers spent their day off from class to spend time at the center because it continues to take care of their students.  "A lot of our kids are going straight from our class to places just like this," said student Eric Mitchell.  "So, when we came in here earlier, half the ceiling was falling out, the walls were all scuffed up from shoes, they didn't have 'High School Musical' pillows, and now they do.  So, our students are going to's going to directly benefit a lot of them."

A big change for the club is the creation of a teen room for older kids.  Many teens stop coming to the center when they are 15 years old, so the club wanted to provide a place they can call their own.