(Hamil R. Harris/Washington Post) (Hamil R. Harris/Washington Post)

Whether it was serving meals to the homeless or planting vegetables on an inner city farm, more than 6,500 people at 60 locations  across the District, Maryland and Virginia took part in “Good Deeds Day,” an annual event sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.

Steve Rakitt, chief executive officer for the federation, participated on Sunday in massive planting of vegetables with other volunteers at the Common Good City Farm in Northwest. The gardens stand on what was once a scruffy patch of  debris leftover from the demolition of the Gage Eckington Elementary School, which closed a few years ago.

“Good Deeds Day began three years ago in Israel and we wanted to bring it over here,” Rakitt said. “Last year we had more than 3,000 volunteers and this year we expect more than 6,500 volunteers at 60 different locations all over the Metro D.C. area and this is an opportunity to come together where you live. We are in neighborhoods in the District, Maryland and Virginia because this builds community.”

Rachel Callahan, executive director of Common Good City Farms, said the creation of the farm was the outgrowth of the demise of the school. “The school got torn down due to low enrolllment and the community really rallied and said they wanted something productive for this space.”

As Courtney Goldstein, a 26-year-old resident of Northwest, plowed a mound of rich soil with Spencer Lucker, 26, and Brenda Tobin, 26, both of Northeast, each of the professionals talked about why they enjoyed taking  part in an annual event that takes part every spring around Passover.

“Its nice to get out in the community and help out,” said Goldstein, a speech pathologist. “What makes this special is this for people to feel like they are part of something greater than themselves.”

Spencer Lucker and Courtney Goldstein prepare soil for planting vegetables. (Hamil R. Harris/Washington Post) Spencer Lucker and Courtney Goldstein prepare soil for planting vegetables. (Hamil R. Harris/Washington Post)

Rakitt drew a connection between Good Deeds Day and Passover. “The Passover holiday celebrates the freedom of the Jewish from slavery and Good Deeds Days celebrates Spring, that rebirth after a long winter. During Passover we have large groups coming together and on Good Deeds Day, we have large groups coming together to celebrate spring.”

Children pitched in, too, at least until they heard the chimes of an ice cream truck. As she worked in the garden and met new friends,  Avery Zeisler, 9, said, “I like to be out here because I like to help the community.”