In 1994, Congress designated the Martin Luther King Federal Holiday as a national day of service. The King Day of Service has grown each year since then with projects taking place now in all 50 States, the District of Columbia (Washington DC) and Puerto Rico.
Here, Greater DC Cares is the organization which co-ordinates projects and volunteers. This year 3,000 people volunteered via their online site, to help make an impact on 70 schools & organizations in the DC area.
I signed on to help beautify Bruce Monroe Elementary School at Parkview because this school is in my own backyard. It is a lovely building which houses nearly 400 students with an ethnic mix of; 55% Hispanic, 44% African-American and 1% Asian.
One in three children in DC does not complete High School!!!!! Today's projects included painting the school's name in the entryway to increase school pride and painting collegiate logos in the halls to encourage higher education.
Volunteers lined up to sign in and waive all our rights to sue them should we fall off a ladder or get paint in our eye and we all received a snazzy red work tee shirt:
While I was waiting my turn a microphone suddenly appeared under my chin and the ubiquitous blonde reporter asked "why did you volunteer today?"…. Being somewhat shocked to find myself Live on Fox 5 I hope I managed to sound fairly intelligent and not as if I needed a few more years of elementary schooling! The news crew leaving:
We had a short orientation session where we watched video of a small portion of one of King's famous speeches and were then introduced to various dignitaries associated with the DC Cares program & the sponsors and to the Principal of the School (a wonderfully dynamic woman).
Ceiling of the auditorium:
I was assigned to a painting crew; given a roll of masking tape and a roller brush and sent to the Rec Center.
I did not know anyone else there which felt a little strange at first but once the work began there was a wonderful sense of camaraderie, the work just flowed and we achieved a lot.
I know that a few coats of paint can not plug the cracks that obviously exist in the education system here but it is a start to have the children know that so many people in the community do care.
As Martin Luther King Jr. said: "Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation"