WELLSBURG - While preaching on one hot August day in 1957 in Montgomery, Ala., Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?"
Many Brooke High School students, staff and other volunteers could answer that on Monday, the day named for the slain civil rights leader, as they were helping to provide meals to fellow community members of all walks of life.
As visitors entered the school's front cafeteria, they were greeted by a student and encouraged to take a seat while other students delivered a plate of hot spaghetti, bowl of salad, slice of bread and cake to their tables.
Brooke High School senior Katie Nunley, left, and Makayla Moore, a freshman at the school, were among many students who joined school staff members and other volunteers in serving free spaghetti dinners to hundreds of community members, including about 100 residents at home, Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. -- Warren Scott
At one end of the lunchroom, teens and adults formed an assembly line, filling plates and bowls and placing them on carts to be wheeled to the many tables.
"We started (getting ready) about 11 a.m. and there have been kids helping out through the day," said Juliet Casinelli, president of the school's student government.
Casinelli said some students received credit for community service at the school, but many were just looking for something to do on their day off.
"We have made it our motto that instead of a day off, we make it a day on," said Toni Shute, principal, who noted it's the third year for the event dubbed "Break Bread with the Bruins."
Shute said in addition to members of the student government, volunteers included members of the basketball and baseball teams, Key Club, Bruin Leaders "and some students who don't belong to any organization but just wanted to come and help."
She added members of Vets for Veterans and the Ohio Valley Veterans Memorial Squad turned out to help in the kitchen.
Mick Mullen, a member of both groups, noted vocational students at the school presented a $500 donation to the squad to help with its expenses in delivering military honors at the funerals of area veterans.
"This is our way of saying thanks," he said.
Shute said many local businesses provided food and supplies, from noodles to to-go boxes used to deliver meals to residents at senior and handicapped apartment complexes and nursing homes.
"We started getting calls (for take-out orders) at 2 o'clock," said Savannah Piehs, a senior from the Cross Creek area, as she and Cassie Galiano, a junior from Wellsburg, cheerfully readied a cart with slices of cake.
"It's really nice giving back to the community and serving other people," said Galiano.
Shute said the school also received a $10,000 state Community Participation Grant through the efforts of state Sens. Jack Yost, D-Wellsburg, and Orphy Klempa, D-Wheeling, for the event and an upcoming school assembly that will feature Dr. Edith Eva Eger, a survivor of the Holocaust who went on to become a clinical psychologist and lecturer.
There are plans for Eger to speak at an evening program open to the public.
Asked why he volunteered for the dinner, Devin Zenobile, a sophomore from Follansbee, said, "I just wanted to give back to the community."
He added it was nice to think that he might be helping someone who hasn't eaten in a while.
The dinner wasn't limited to those in need. Through local media and the school district's automated calling system, normally used to announce cancelations or delays, Brooke school officials invited the public. But Shute said the dinner underscores the importance of helping others and the principles for which King stood.
She noted King once said, "Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)