In the Shadow of Duke Lacrosse Case, Students Come Together

Jan.19, 2006— -- The Duke University lacrosse case continues in the courtroom, 10 months after three Duke students were accused of attacking an exotic dancer attending the predominantly black North Carolina Central University.

The three students, Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann, still face charges, even though the most serious charge of rape was dropped last month. This month Mike Nifong, the Durham County district attorney prosecuting the case, recused himself after the state bar accused him of mishandling it. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper and a team of special prosecutors have taken over the case.

But this week, students from both schools stepped away from this legal drama that has engulfed them. For the first time, they came together to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with an act of community service. While packaging dry foods for developing countries they created a social opportunity for students from both schools.

Nearly 600 students gathered in a North Carolina Central University gymnasium to feed the hungry, filling bags with items that included dehydrated vegetables, rice, chicken and soy. According to Amber Banks, student coordinator at NCCU, the packaged meals will be sent to needy communities in Haiti, Guatemala and India.

Each time the students packed 1,000 meals, a gong sounded.

"Once people started around 2 p.m., the gong rang every two minutes or so," Banks told ABC News.

Many saw the service project as a sign of improved relations between the two campus communities, and students who participated said they benefited from working alongside students from the other school.

"Placing two schools with a different type of culture together for one common goal is healthy," said Geoffrey Cooper, a student at NCCU.

"We want to work together to provide tangible benefits to the community," said Duke student government president Elliott Wolf.

While working alongside students from Duke, Cooper, a 19-year old mass communications sophomore, was surprised to find they had so many things in common.

"They were aware of a lot about our campus, which was surprising to me," said Cooper.

Stop Hunger Now, an international hunger relief group and local branches of Rotary International, sponsored the event. According to Banks, 155,404 meals were made by 9:30 p.m., a new record for Stop Hunger Now.

The next hearing in the Duke lacrosse case is scheduled for Feb. 5.

The three indicted players, David Evans, Reade Seligmann, and Collin Finnerty maintain they're not guilty of the charges.