- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 14, 2003

Hundreds of building industry professionals and residents spent yesterday sprucing up the grounds of the Deanwood Recreation Center and Ronald H. Brown Middle School in Northeast, giving neighborhood children fresh new — and safe — areas for play and sports activities.

Roughly 400 residents and members of the D.C. Building Industry Association (DCBIA) rolled up their sleeves, wiped their sopping brows and got to work at the crack of dawn to ensure the 10-acre recreation center got curb appeal. It was all part of the 11th annual Community Improvement Day.

After almost 12 hours of labor, the volunteers — including lawyers, engineers, developers, contractors, landscapers, architects and interior designers — gave the recreation center at 1300 49th St. and the grounds around the school a face lift.

They converted a grassy field into a baseball diamond, painted a colorful mural on the pool house, installed new swings on the playground, and laid down an inviting brick walkway accented with flower boxes full of ornamental grasses near the school.

Alvin Martin of Glenn Dale, Md., drove his son, LaRue, to the site early in the morning so he could earn some community service hours at the daylong event. When he got there, Mr. Martin decided to stay and pitch in.

“I was the chauffeur and I ended up staying,” Mr. Martin said. “But, it’s always good to give back. I’ve been favored in life, so it’s good to give back to the community.”

LaRue, 13, a freshman at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, thought the day would be a washout. Instead, the teenager said he had fun removing dirt from the school’s courtyard, weeding, cutting down a few trees and cleaning up the tennis courts.

“I have to complete 36 hours of community service in order to graduate. And I thought this would be boring but it’s actually fun,” LaRue said, smiling, after enjoying ribs, hamburgers, hot dogs, pasta salad and all the fixings during lunch.

Kent Fee, who co-chaired the event, said D.C. Parks and Recreation each year gives the association a list of sites that could use some fixing up. The association picks one site to work on.

“We also try to find a site that the community will maintain and take pride in,” said Mr. Fee, of Lehman-Smith+McLeish, a D.C.-based interior and architectural firm.

“This is a great event. Besides giving to the community, it’s good to work with [colleagues] in a completely different environment,” he said.

Fifty companies from the building industry participated in the annual Improvement Day and donated nearly $1 million in materials, equipment and labor.

Timothy Nagy, a supervisor at Regency Commercial Construction of Beltsville, was happy to do a little yard work yesterday. Mr. Nagy, 45, meticulously placed mulch around a Japanese cherry tree before picking up a shovel to dig holes to plant more trees. He spent the day mulching and planting flowers, trees and bushes.

“I’m having fun — I’m having a ball because I can see the finished product. Normally, I would be doing carpentry work, but I love landscaping,” he said.

The pride Mr. Fee described was shared by Michael Best, a boy who lives across from the center. An eighth-grader at Brown, Michael, 13, volunteered to help out because he saw other children from his neighborhood working hard to improve their community.

“This [project] makes me happy and very proud because now we have a nice recreation center like other kids and I appreciate the fact that [DCBIA] came out to help us,” he said.

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