80 UF students spend holiday volunteering at Reichert House

The students saw a community service project as the perfect way to celebrate MLK Day.


Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones, founder of Reichert House Youth Academy, thanks University of Florida students who volunteered on Monday at the Reichert House in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Caitlin Healy
Published: Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 18, 2010 at 11:10 p.m.

Southeast Second Avenue buzzed with activity Monday morning as about 80 University of Florida students darted busily through the lawns and buildings of the Reichert House Youth Academy.

Starting at 9 a.m., they went to work painting picnic tables, washing vans, mopping floors, organizing sheds and spreading mulch.

They were there to volunteer their time and help out with anything that needed to be done, because to these UF students, a community service project seemed like the perfect way to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The student volunteers, who were organized by UF's MLK Committee, came from about 10 different student organizations, but they all shared a common motivation.

"It's basically just knowing that I can help somehow ... and make a small difference, especially on a day that is celebrating someone who did so much for so many people," said Diana Baxter, a UF freshman and member of the ACTIONS! service organization.

Kristen Denson, a UF junior and co-organizer of the event, said that much of Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy was his ability to create an impact in communities, and she thought that volunteering at the Reichert House would be a great way for UF students to make an impact of their own.

Reichert House is an after-school program that takes at-risk teen males and puts them on the path to success by providing academic help, career advice and a supportive atmosphere with positive role models.

Sabrina Blake, a UF senior and member of the service organization SISTUHS, has worked closely with the boys at Reichert House in the past and said volunteers can make a big difference in the lives of these teens.

"I can see that (the teens) want change, but they can't do it by themselves," she said. "... They really need our help, and they want it, but it's kind of like they won't ask for it."

Byers Hickmon, executive director of the Reichert House, agreed that volunteers can make a big difference in the community by working with these boys, and he said he was thrilled to see so many UF students helping out on Monday.

"For this to happen today, it just warms my heart," he said. "It just really excites me. This is wonderful for young people to come out and volunteer their time to help us."

Doug Williams, the administrative director of Reichert House and an officer with the Gainesville Police Department, said he was particularly impressed that college students, who may only live in Gainesville for four years, took the initiative to get involved in the community.

He said he was sure the boys in his program appreciated the hard work put in by these student volunteers.

"I'm sure the guys will love it," he said. "When they get back they'll see the difference, and hopefully it'll spur something in them to actually give back to the community when they are in a position to give back."

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