On eve of inauguration, Obama demonstrates service
January 20, 2009
On eve of inauguration, President-elect Obama visits wounded soldiers, a homeless shelter and volunteers writing to service personnel
A January 20, 2009 Baltimore Sun article
By Matthew Hay Brown and Mary Gail Hare
As an African-American business owner, Joe Weaver has observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day each of the past 14 years by working. When people asked why Global Interactive Design was open on the federal holiday, he would explain: "This is the dream."
But yesterday, Weaver answered the call of President-elect Barack Obama, shutting down the Owings Mills marketing business and bringing a team of employees and family members to Our Daily Bread to help feed a hot lunch to the poor and homeless.
"It's still the dream," said Weaver, 41, between serving meals at the Baltimore soup kitchen run by Catholic Charities. "We're just exercising it in a different way."
In Maryland and across the nation, volunteers donated time and energy to thousands of projects on the eve of Obama's inauguration. The president-elect, who had called on Americans to honor King by serving in their communities, started his day with a visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to meet with veterans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Later, he picked up a paint roller to apply a fresh coat of blue to the walls at Sasha Bruce House, a shelter for homeless teens in Washington, and joined his wife, Michelle, at Calvin Coolidge High School to greet 300 people who were writing letters to military service members and performing other activities.
"It's not a day just to pause and reflect - it's a day to act," Obama said. "I ask the American people to turn today's efforts into an ongoing commitment to enriching the lives of others in their communities, their cities and their country."
That's what Terry Patton is hoping for. The Franklin Square Elementary/Middle School principal spent her day off supervising three shifts of volunteers cleaning and painting classrooms and lavatories in the brick building on West Lexington Street.
"This means partnerships," said Patton, gesturing to the parents and others awaiting assignments. "Not only for today, but to continue into the future. As we're renewing America, we're renewing our school."
Melissa Smith said she ordinarily spends the King holiday enjoying the time off. This year, she went looking for an opportunity to serve - a search that took her to a second-floor bathroom at Franklin Square in need of a new coat of paint.
"I'm 27, and this was the first election I voted," said Smith, a community living coordinator at Goucher College. "It's the first time there was someone I wanted to vote for. I think he's asking us all to be better people. Not for ourselves, but for each other."
In the parking lot of New Psalmist Baptist Church in Edmondson Village, more than 200 volunteers unloaded cartons containing pasta, peanut butter and other staples from a tractor trailer with "Feed the Children" printed on its side. The workers combined the packages with bagfuls of books and videos for children and gave them to about 400 needy families.
Related Item: Our Daily Bread Employment Center