Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue
Students clean a horse trough at a local farm during MLK Jr. Days of Service

Serving the Knoxville Community

Service is at the heart of who we are as Volunteers. We bear the torch and bring light to others by showing up and lending a hand to our community.

MLK Jr. Days of Service

MLK Jr. Days of Service is an annual service series hosted by the Jones Center for Leadership and Service that embodies the importance of living out the legacy of Dr. King by volunteering and supporting our community. This year, the annual MLK Jr. Days of Service ran from January 31 through February 11. More than 550 volunteers served 20 different sites throughout the greater Knoxville area over the two weeks.

“I learned that there are many volunteering opportunities around Knoxville that are in serious need of extra help. This inspired me to do more research on the service sites I went to and what more I could do to help. As someone who is not from Knoxville, these opportunities gave me an opportunity to see the beauty beyond campus.”

— 2022 MLK Jr. Days of Service participant

“Great cities, great campuses, and great areas thrive because there are great people working to help make sure that the community is supported,” said Laura Solomon, assistant director of the Jones Center for Leadership and Service. “MLK Days of Service are just one example of how UT serves the Knoxville community that serves us every day.”

This year, Student Life leadership set a goal to have as many staff involved as possible, making sure to work with directors and supervisors on how they could support staff volunteering during work hours.

“It was important to have staff participate in MLK Day service projects to model for students what it means to be a Volunteer through service,” said Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Life Chandra Myrick. “Staff participation is also beneficial to community partners who rely on volunteers for various projects. Increasing the number of students and staff who participate in service projects allows our community partners to provide more support and services to the Knoxville community.”

Volunteers tackled an array of projects including sorting donations, tutoring children, cleaning river shorelines, and organizing storage spaces with various partners.

94% of participants surveyed agreed that the MLK Jr. Days of Service helped them better understand the importance of serving our local community.

93% of participants surveyed recommend participating in MLK Jr. Days of Service to other students, faculty, and staff.

Chi Omega sorority holds a fundraiser titled "Pie a Chi."Engaging in Philanthropy and Service

Philanthropy and service are at the heart of many Greek-letter organizations. Each year, chapters within the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life (OSFL) complete a set number of service hours determined by their national organization and by OSFL. They host events that fundraise for each organization’s philanthropy with both local and national impact.

“The sorority and fraternity community continues to value community service hours and philanthropic donations demonstrated by each of the 5,956 members,” said John Keith, director of the OSFL at UT. “In collaboration with the Jones Center for Leadership and Service, we have seen the contributions that our sorority and fraternity community has had on the Knoxville community and we continue to look for opportunities to lead, learn and serve.”

In the 2021–22 academic year, sorority and fraternity members completed more than 85,000 hours of community service. Service opportunities ranged from national service with groups like the Girl Scouts of America and the Alzheimer’s Foundation, all the way to local service with the Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee and the Wesley House Community Center. While this list isn’t exhaustive it demonstrates the ways that organizations are giving back.

There were also more than $751,000 philanthropic donations reported and verified that were given to local and national non-profit organizations. With a member base of nearly 6,000 students, this is an average of $126 per member.

These fundraisers aim to involve the UT community and create engaging ways for all UT students, faculty, and staff to get involved. For example, Sigma Alpha Epsilon hosted Paddy Murphy Week which brought out Tennessee’s head football and baseball coaches and raised more than $9,000 for the Wounded Warrior Foundation.

“Ultimately, as values-based organizations, it is important that we lead from a place of service,” said Keith. “Greek-letter organizations were founded because of these values, and their founders recognized the power of our collective. Giving back in meaningful ways, whether through philanthropy or service, is central to our missions and allows our students to embody the Volunteer spirit.”