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Thousands Expected for Volunteer Activities

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 19, 2009; Page B05

Thousands of Washington area residents are expected to join today in activities fulfilling President-elect Barack Obama's nationwide call for community service.

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The "Renew America Together" initiative is meant to revitalize neighborhoods and re-inject the spirit of community service into Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The federal holiday, first observed 23 years ago, has long been tied to a call for volunteerism, and Obama has said he wants to build on that mission as part of the many events leading to tomorrow's inauguration.

Obama and Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. plan to participate along with their families in service activities in the Washington area, with details yet to be announced.

At yesterday's concert at the Lincoln Memorial, the opening ceremony of Obama's inauguration, Martin Luther King III encouraged the crowd to volunteer and said, quoting his father, that "everybody can be great, because anybody can serve."

There is still time to select from a range of activities, listed on the Web site http://www.usaservice.org. Renew America Together collected information about thousands of events to give people an array of options. Linda Douglass, chief spokeswoman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, described it as a Craigslist for service.

About 8,500 events across the country are listed on the site, topping the 5,000 events recorded last year, according to a federal agency that promotes the service day. About 500,000 people participated last year in service activities.

In Washington, one of the biggest such efforts will take place at RFK Stadium. Thousands of volunteers are expected to join in creating 75,000 care packages to send to military troops. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) is among those expected to attend a closing ceremony at 4 p.m.

Most events involve cleaning up neighborhoods and schools, although some organizations appeared to get creative, one offering a free walking tour of historic black sites in the District and another staging a demonstration at Gallery Place to draw attention to vegetarianism.

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