About 250 volunteers packed Levin Ballroom yesterday, putting together 12,000 meals for the homeless and taking part in an Educational Justice Fair for Brandeis’ fifth annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Interfaith Service. 

The Day of Interfaith Service, one of many similar volunteer or service-based celebrations of Martin Luther King Jr. Day held across the country, was hosted by Waltham Group, the Multifaith Chaplaincy, Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries and Youth LEAD Sharon. Hillel at Brandeis, Brandeis Black Student Organization and MLK & Friends Club also sponsored the event.

“There’s kind of three components to today,” said Protestant Chaplain Rev. Matthew Carriker in an interview with the Justice, “interfaith—people of all faiths together—service, and also Martin Luther King’s legacy of social justice, and how people of faith and people of conscience are called to live out our faith.” 

Carriker, who joined the Brandeis chaplaincy three years ago, previously worked with CMM, as did his predecessor, Alex Kern. 

The volunteers had expected to package 10,000 enriched macaroni, soy and powdered cheese meals, but raised $500 in the day leading up to the event, according to organizers. 

With one meal costing 25 cents, volunteers were able to package 2,000 additional meals. 

According to Jane Marie Galiette, a representative for Outreach Ministries’ End Hunger Northeast program, who coordinated the meal-packing, the event was part of a record-breaking weekend for Outreach, with over 300,000 meals expected to be packed at eight events in several different states.

“You folks here today as a group this morning are going to help alleviate that [hunger] right here in Middlesex County,” Galiette said to the gathered volunteers at the afternoon session. Middlesex County is the “hungriest” county in New England, with 136,000 hungry people, 39,000 of those being children, according to Galiette. 

The meals packed at Brandeis will be distributed to local food pantries and homeless shelters. 

Volunteers of all ages flocked to campus for the event. Brandeis staff and students were joined by Waltham- and Boston-area middle and high school students, participants in Crossroads for Kids and CMM’s Interfaith Youth Initiative, local church groups and members of the general community. 

“The day’s been really interesting,” said Mercedes Hall ’17. “Just getting to … interact with the younger students and see how they take on leadership roles, even at 14 or 15 years old ... It’s really nice, it’s really positive to see.” 

WATCH CDC, REACH Beyond Domestic Violence, Amnesty International, BBSO, Chaplains on the Way, Waltham Family School and Youth LEAD all led educational sessions and workshops in their areas of expertise. The event also provided a session on “Forgiveness and Reconciliation and Non-Violence” in the afternoon.

Participants alternated between packing meals on the ground level and joining the educational sessions on the ballroom mezzanine. A photograph of King talking with students during his 1957 visit to Brandeis was projected onto a screen at the front of the room. 

Rodney Petersen, executive director of CMM, said the day was “wonderful.” 

“It’s been a tremendous day,” said Petersen in an interview with the Justice. “We’ve seen people of all races, of all ages, of all sexes, working together in a cooperative atmosphere. It’s been tremendous. ... It’s great to remember Martin Luther King doing a project like this, rather than spending the day on the ski slopes.” 

This is the third year that the Interfaith Day of Service has centered around a meal-packing event, according to Carriker. 

In years past, participants have been bused to various service sites around Waltham and Boston, volunteered at Cradles to Crayons or led a social justice-themed tour of the Brandeis campus. Brandeis has partnered with CMM all five years. 

The day’s projects, and several others throughout the state, were funded by a grant from the Massachusetts Service Alliance.