Public Service Is a Perfect Fit for MLK Day

By Debbi Wilgoren
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 18, 2008

Parents and children can honor the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. this weekend by cleaning parks, fixing up schools and homeless shelters or sorting clothing donations. Community service has become an increasingly popular way to observe the holiday marking the birthday of the slain civil rights leader, and numerous groups are planning large projects suitable for families. Organizers say the projects, whether they involve helping others less fortunate or beautifying a public building or park, are a fun and family-friendly way for children to learn King's message of the importance of public service and making a difference.

If the outdoors is your thing, you can head to Pope Branch Park on the east bank of the Anacostia River, where volunteers from the Pope Branch Park Restoration Alliance will launch their second annual King Day cleanup.

Last year, about 75 people collected trash and weeded out invasive plant species, using gloves and equipment provided by the D.C. government. The goal is to improve the cleanliness and ecological health of the park, site of a tributary to the Anacostia River.

"Dr. King's life was devoted to service, and anything we can do to be of service is walking in his legacy," said Joseph Glover, who lives next to the park and founded the restoration alliance 40 years ago. Based on his experience working with his own children and grandchildren to improve the park, hands-on experiences are an especially effective way of teaching young people, Glover said.

Families can join the hundreds of volunteers expected at Howard University in the District's Shaw neighborhood to collect and sort clothing donations for the poor, or head to the Community for Creative Non-Violence homeless shelter downtown to paint and clean rooms.

Children 10 and older are welcome at Brighten Local Elementary Schools, a project led by the D.C. Jewish Community Center. Volunteers will paint classrooms and hallways at two schools in Southeast Washington, Turner and Ferebee-Hope. Organizers are hoping for 100 volunteers for each site; they'd like people to register in advance at

On Sunday, the Calvin Woodland Senior Foundation will launch a Clean Sweep Streets Campaign to clean up the area around 22nd Street and Alabama Avenue SE. Volunteers of all ages can help spruce up the neighborhood by removing trash.

A complete listing of events is available at Parents should read project descriptions carefully to make sure the project is appropriate for their children and open to the public.

POPE BRANCH PARK CLEANUP Monday 9 to 1, meet at Fairlawn Avenue and M Place SE. Contact: Joseph Glover, 202-581-1214, or Irv Sheffey, 202-299-6503.

HOWARD UNIVERSITY MLK DAY CLOTHING DRIVE Monday 10 to 3, Burr Gymnasium, Sixth and Girard streets NW. Contact: Jacob Ortiz, 202-806-4773 or 202-270-0620.

CCNV SHELTER BEAUTIFICATION Monday 11:30 to 2:30, 425 Second St. NW. Contact: Regina Moran, 202-727-0709.

BRIGHTEN LOCAL ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS Monday 10 to 2, Ferebee-Hope Elementary School, 3999 Eighth St. SE, or Turner Elementary School, 3264 Stanton Rd. SE. Contact: Sarah Kirschenbaum, 202-777-3245 or 310-963-8612.

WOODLAND CLEAN STREET SWEEPS Sunday noon to 4, 22nd Street and Alabama Avenue SE. Contact: Danny Gibson, 202-215-9233.

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