Montgomery celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. with Day of Service -- Gazette.Net







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One long line was to pack Snow Day boxes for Meals on Wheels. Another, sponsored by Whole Foods Supermarkets, was for assembling bag lunches for area shelters and food kitchens. Between there were tables filled with supplies for making bookmarks for Friends of the Library, Valentines for senior citizens and fleece blankets for Montgomery Hospice, among many other projects.

It was Montgomery County’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 2013 Day of Service and Volunteer Fair from 9 to 11 a.m. Monday at the North Bethesda Marriott Conference Center.

“It’s an exciting day. People can come and do something and, we hope, (be) inspired to volunteer all year round,” said Katie Sayago, Day of Service Coordinator for the Montgomery County Volunteer Center, which organized the event.

Sayago said since the Day of Service coincided this year with Inauguration Day, the time was changed from early afternoon to morning, a change that did not seem to effect the number of people who planned to attend.

“We actually had more people sign up online than last year, about 200 more,” she said, adding that they expected about 2,000 people to take part in the activities.

Devin Tull, 15, a sophomore at Gaithersburg High School, said he was one of about 30 students from Positive Impact Martial Arts School, Gaithersburg, there to work. It was his fourth year at the Day of Service, and he started by packing a Snow Day box with nonperishable food items such as soup, tuna, canned fruit and snacks for Meals on Wheels clients in case weather prohibits regular deliveries.

“I actually enjoy doing this, knowing it’s helping people,” Devin said.

Following Devin and his friends down the Snow Day box line were Garry and Meredith Burnett of Takoma Park and their daughters Naomi, 6, and Sloane, 3.

“We thought it was very important to give back to the community,” Meredith Burnett said.

She said it was also a time for teaching the children about volunteerism.

“They were very open and receptive,” she said.

For each activity that was taking place, volunteers were busy explaining their organization, replenishing supplies and helping attendees get the work done. Jan Barrett of Wheaton said she volunteers at Brookside Gardens in Silver Spring, is a Weed Warrior with Montgomery County parks and works with Interages at the Jewish Community Center in Rockville. She spent Monday morning resupplying the food for Snow Day boxes. Candace Child, marketing team leader at Whole Foods in the Kentlands, coordinated more than 50 Whole Foods volunteers and their families who worked along with others making sandwiches, bagging cookies and filling lunch bags.

One activity seemed especially fun to Arjun Akwei, 10, a fifth-grader at Chevy Chase Elementary School. He was wrapping a wad of newspaper with rubber bands to create golf-ball-sized balls for children at The Children’s Inn at National Institutes of Health. The balls will be used in the Inn’s Thoughtful Treasures program in which each day, residents get a special treasure in their mailboxes to brighten the day.

“It will be more fun for them instead of sitting around in their beds,” Arjun said. “It’s also fun to make them.”

The ball-making activity was sponsored by the Montgomery County Muslim Foundation, one of about 40 participating groups.

“Our mission is to provide service to Muslims and non-Muslims in Montgomery County,” said Zeshaan Rasheed, of Montgomery Village, a member of the group’s Board of Directors.

As the two-hour window for good works ended, Kaushika Patel of Bethesda, her son, Anand Bhogal, 7,and family friend, Arya Kumar, 7, worked to finish a felt blanket for Montgomery Hospice.

“They should do this every month,” Patel said.

Volunteer activities were also conducted Monday morning at the Silver Spring Civic Building. Similar to the projects in North Bethesda, that event was sponsored by The Youth Activities for Seventh Day Adventists in partnership with the Montgomery County Volunteer Center. On Saturday and Sunday, Manna Food Center held Help the Hungry food drives at local Giant grocery stores.