SPARTANBURG, S.C. — In his Nobel Peace Prize address in 1964, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of the importance of wiping out poverty.

“No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for ‘the least of these,’” he said.

Wofford Men of Color put those words into action to aid Spartanburg’s homeless population as part of the college’s MLK week celebration. On Monday, members of the organization delivered blankets and personal hygiene items to Miracle Hill Rescue Mission near downtown.

“This group was founded primarily to help our community,” says Tyrus Peoples ’21, a government major from Red Bank, South Carolina. “It was clear that the homeless would be the best group to help because of the prevalence of COVID and it being the middle of winter.”

Members of the organization and volunteers from the Wofford community gathered in the Tony White Theater on Saturday to prepare bags for Monday’s delivery. An assembly line of students quickly moved from station to station, packing blankets and toiletry items such as hand sanitizer, soap and toothbrushes.

When the packing was done, Wofford Men of Color president Ellis Goodwin ’22, a biology major from North Charleston, South Carolina, told volunteers that in 10 minutes, they had made a change in the world.

Goodwin’s words resonated with Taylor Lawson ’21, a sociology and anthropology major from Columbia, South Carolina.

“Homelessness is everywhere,” Lawson says. “I feel like some people are not aware of how big a problem it is in Spartanburg. This is an opportunity for us to give back. A little help could make a difference in someone’s life.”

The S.C. Upstate Continuum of Care’s 2019 State of Homelessness Report identified 229 homeless people in its point-in-time count, but the number was closer to 1,200 when data from other agencies was included. While some live on the streets and under bridges, many of the county’s homeless are school-age children living in shelters or motels.

Goodwin says too often, people don’t realize how fortunate they are to sleep in a warm bed each night and wake up to bathe and put on clean clothes.

“The homeless, they can’t do any of that,” Goodwin says. “They’re alone in the world without the resources to get what they need.”

Mark Alverson, a 1984 Wofford graduate and Miracle Hill’s program director, says it’s “particularly endearing” to him to see students from his alma mater taking care of the less fortunate.

“It’s encouraging to see people of this age giving practical items for those in need,” Alverson says. “Sometimes they can be separated from the rawness of life.”