Art from the heart

Southern Oregon University students broke out their paintbrushes Saturday for the annual Martin Luther King Day of Service, creating a mural that will be hung in the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Medford. The mural, displaying the words "Habitat serves all," was designed to reflect both Habitat's mission and King's legacy of equality and service.

"I think it is really important to bring awareness to what Habitat does and to get rid of those myths that a lot of people have about Habitat," said Whitny Davidson, volunteer coordinator for the nonprofit. "The design of the mural was really beautiful. I think it in a very simple way really describes what Habitat is all about."

Although Habitat was founded as a Christian organization, the nonprofit chooses families based solely on need, without considering religion, race or any other social marker. To reflect that, the final panel of the mural depicts a house made of multi-colored bricks with descriptions of Habitat's clients and volunteers, such as Buddhist, atheist, black, white, young, old, single or divorced. Like Dr. King, Habitat works with a wide diversity of people, and the mural will help reinforce that mission to ReStore customers, Davidson said.

The ReStore, where the mural will be displayed, sells donated building materials to support Habitat's homebuilding projects. Customers often aren't aware that the store is related to the nonprofit, and the mural will help strengthen that connection. The project was so successful that Habitat plans to continue adding murals to the ReStore walls in the years to come, Davidson said.

Erica Knotts, a freshman at SOU who helped with the project, said she was proud to be a part of the original mural-painting team.

"I'm excited to think we helped start something new that they're going to keep going," she said. "I loved being a part of it. I felt like it's something that's going to be around for a long time."

The mural project was made possible with donations from Habitat, Rodda Paint and Drakes Paint and Supplies, as well as a grant from Oregon Volunteers. The project was coordinated by SOU's Civic Engagement Program, which supports student community involvement.

Julie French is a freelance writer living in Ashland. She can be contacted at

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