Saint Vincent College students serve via MLK Challenge

Updated 27 minutes ago

As a boy growing up in the Republic of Zambia in southern Africa, Chilombo Kabungo had never heard of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Instead, Kabungo, 21, knew about Nelson Mandela, who served as president of South Africa after spending 27 years in prison because he conspired to overthrow South Africa’s apartheid whites-only government in the 1960s.

On Saturday, Kabungo joined about 10 fellow members of the Saint Vincent College Rugby Club in volunteering their time and using their muscles to move doors, windows and other building products at the Central Westmoreland Habitat for Humanity warehouse along Donohoe Road in Hempfield. They were helping as part of the Martin Luther King Challenge, so-named in honor of man who led the nation’s civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s before he was assassinated in April 1968 in Memphis, Tenn.

A senior at Saint Vincent, which is near Latrobe, Kabungo immigrated to the United States at age 5 and landed in Baldwin. He graduated from Baldwin High School and is the first member of his family to attend a U.S. college.

“It is a good way to give back. I decided to come here to make a statement,” Kabungo said. “It’s carrying out the Benedictine commitment to helping out the community.”

Sean Kunkle, manager of the Habitat for Humanity warehouse, was grateful for their help Saturday.

“They’re able to do some projects that some of the other (volunteers) people would have a tough time (doing). We gave them some of the bigger projects,” Kunkle said.

Sean Anderson of Masontown, a senior at Saint Vincent and another rugby player, said that they have helped at the Habitat warehouse for the past few years.

“We wanted to go where our guys could help out the most,” Anderson said.

Devin Fava, a psychology professor at Saint Vincent and faculty adviser for the college’s Habitat for Humanity club, said this is the sixth year they have helped at the warehouse.

A group of students also volunteered to help at the Society of St. Vincent De Paul store in Latrobe.

“They’re a godsend. We look forward to when they come and help. They really help out a lot,” said Joe Androstic, president of the store.

Other Saint Vincent students and staff were scheduled to volunteer their time Saturday to serve at the Charter Oak United Methodist Church food pantry in Unity.

“Providing the Saint Vincent community with an opportunity to serve is extremely important to us, as it was to Dr. King. Projects like these allow the entire campus to be active members of the college and surrounding communities. It is an honor to see a tremendous number of students, faculty and staff come together for a chance to serve others,” Ishmael Solomon, assistant director of the college’s residence and multicultural student life at Saint Vincent, said in a statement.

The aim is to make the holiday one where people of all ages and backgrounds come together to improve lives, bridge social barriers and move the nation closer to the “beloved community” that King envisioned, the college said in a statement.

The college will observe national Martin Luther King Jr. Day with commemorative activities Tuesday.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or [email protected]