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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"

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36 responses

  1. Oh cool, I wish we could see a clip! Congrats and I'm sure you did wonderfully. Lovely to volunteer, 1 in 3. Wow. I fear the rates are similar for our neck of the woods. Right wing nuts of the world are still fighting against MLK holidays. Not surprisingly.

  2. This is absolutely fantastic!!! Hooray for you and for all those other volunteers!I must admit that I was woefully unaware of the "service" aspect of the day. :(Hooray for Obama for prodding more Volunteerism, too!

  3. that is a beautiful building, they don't build places like that anymore. my daughter told me recently that there are even laws against building places like that. I was very surprised to hear the statistic– 1 out of 3 do not graduate. scary.

  4. Love the building structure and some times it is more important to touch only a few people then the whole school! unfortunately many things that would work to help people in one place doesn't help in others but is there ever really a perfect solution??? But if you had fun that it was a good day!

  5. I love that you volunteered. That is sooooo incredibly awesome. I would have freaked if a reporter would have shoved a mic in my face. Did you get to see yourself on the news later?

  6. What a beautiful old building, I know first hand how much these clean up jobs are appreciated, for several years I attend a day of caring and have cleaned, patched and painted my way throughout my county and it's nice meeting new people many who wind up coming back year after year.

  7. Kimber took the words outta my mouth. The old building is very cool. I learned from a gal pal that I too was on TV, unbeknownst to me, a mourner at the Lakewood memorial for the fallen four police officers. I also stumbled across an online photo of the memorial that I was in.

  8. 1 in 3 is a horrifying number of children not finishing school. I knew the figures were bad but I was surprised to find it was that high. Just sad to think of the missed opportunities….

  9. I must admit that I was woefully unaware of the "service" aspect of the day. :(I have only been aware of it for the last 3 years and was surprised to find it began in 1994. There is a lot of promotion for volunteering here in DC and yes the Obama's have certainly highlighted it too.

  10. see if there's video of a bumfuzzled Aussie woman …I looked – if there'd been a tape online I wouldn't have mentioned it. As it was live to air and early in the morning on a holiday-day I was pretty sure no-one I knew would see me.

  11. I'm sorry that there is a law against building lovely style buildings. In my area they try to keep the facade of buildings now if they can, rather than totally demolishing a lovely old building.

  12. That is true Jamie – there are many schools in DC that need work. Later in the year there is a DC Schools Beautification day when more schools see some volunteer action. The auditorium of the building had such a lovely high ceiling and that timber "framework".

  13. No the clip was live to air so I didn't see me – but when I got home I found an email from someone I work with telling me that they had seen me. I asked her if I had looked "stunned" and she said not at all – it happened so quickly that I didn't really get time to feel freaked out about it though I wasn't sure I was being coherent.

  14. I don't suppose I will find many Americans celebrating Australia Day at my desk with me next week – perhaps I should bake up a batch of lamingtons to entice them.

  15. There was a wonderful sense of community amongst the helpers and I came across quite a few people who, like you, have been doing this for a number of years. They were the "pros" that the rest of us looked to for direction.

  16. It is sad to think that people just look forward to the day off without appreciating the background of the holiday (not just MLK day either). When I saw Fox5 on the microphone I thought it might be on the evening local news but then as they moved onto another area I heard them say it was "live TV everyone". There were quite a few photographers around so I tried not to frown incase I ended up in a still shot somewhere.

  17. Thank you Purplesque. There is a lot of attention given to volunteering here in DC and since I've joined a few listservs for my local area I have become aware of so many neighborhood activities – most things like helping at the schools (reading) or with after-school programs are during times that I can not do though because of work.

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