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The ultimate return for 2-day event's volunteers: Smiles

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By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 25, 2010

Emily Sturn emptied the contents of her small cosmetics bag, filled with new emery boards, nail polish and polish remover, and asked Shirley Purney to pick a color. Any color.

Purney chose Hushed Blush. "It's a nice springy color," Purney said Saturday as she watched Sturn brush strokes of polish on her nails.

Purney wasn't in a salon, and Sturn isn't a manicurist.

Purney is a resident at the Washington Home in Northwest Washington, a nonprofit health-care facility for seniors and people who need physical rehabilitation. And Sturn, of Arlington County, was one of 7,000 volunteers who participated in a two-day Servathon, an annual volunteer program coordinated by Greater DC Cares to celebrate National Volunteer Week.

"They were looking kind of bad," Purney said of her nails. "But she came just in time. . . . She's just doing a beautiful job."

More than 100 volunteers gathered at the home Saturday to clean windows, play checkers, wash baseboards, build planters, paint trellises, polish brass plaques and serve meals. But mainly, they talked and listened.

The residents were "asking questions about our lives, and I think that makes them think about their lives," said Tercy Hawes, who lives in the District and participated as part of her job's volunteerism program. "It's just been so pleasant -- just seeing the smiles on their faces."

Richard Harris and Lewis Robinson played checkers with the volunteers.

"I beat 'em," Harris, sitting in his wheelchair, said with a grin on his face.

"I think she let him win," Robinson said. "Who's going to let a senior lose?

Robinson said he was pleased to see so many participating in the program.

"People are so selfish, but it's so nice to see people helping people nowadays," he said.

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