President volunteers, asks Americans to join him - New York News

President volunteers, asks Americans to join him

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WASHINGTON, DC -

Barack and Michelle Obama spent part of the day with other volunteers sprucing up Burrville Elementary School in Washington, D.C. The President and the nation's First Lady helped stain a bookshelf at the public school.

The Obama Administration is also trying to expand the concept of volunteerism. Toward that end, the president's Inaugural Committee erected a huge tent on The Mall in Washington and, on Saturday, filled it with nearly a hundred organizations which are seeking more volunteers.

Former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton visited a booth to help youngsters, there, write letters to sick children.

Actress Eva Longoria appealed to a crowd to help improve the nation by volunteering. "Make a difference in one child's life," pleaded Longoria. "Mentor a student. Donate a book to a library. Donate supplies to a neighborhood school. Help paint a classroom or cleanup a playground."

Thousands of people in town for the Inauguration (and many locals) packed the tent.

Among the groups seeking more volunteers: Big Brothers Big Sisters of the National Capital Area. The group's program director, Michael Brown, says pairing youngsters with older mentors helps the kids. "The grades are better," explained Brown. "They have higher self-esteem. They have better relationships with their peers, with their teachers."

At the Sunshine Mail Foundation, seven year old Addison Rose was helping Chelsea Clinton compose letters. "I am making a card for kids who are ill. And I'm trying to make them feel better," said the second-grader.

Computer terminals around the room allowed visitors to express their interest in different kinds of voluntary activities. Estrellita Jones found the whole scene inspirational. "It kind of gets you motivated to say you're part of something bigger that's going to help out communities," said Jones. "And so that's kind of an inspiration for me."

The President is trying to make service on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend an American tradition. Joel Lucas, of Herndon, Va., thinks that's perfectly appropriate.

"Martin Luther King's legacy is one of volunteerism and service," said Lucas. "I think this gives America (and the DC Metro area) an opportunity to, you know, live his legacy."

Joel Lucas was career military, and, at the age of 61, is still employed full time in the civilian workforce. Nonetheless, on Saturday he signed up to volunteer with two different groups.

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