- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 22, 2004

Volunteers showed up bright and early yesterday to spruce up the Perry School Community Center in Northwest as part of Servathon 2004, an annual day of volunteering across the metropolitan area organized by Greater DC Cares, the region’s leading coordinator of volunteer services and corporate philanthropy.

About 50 adults and teenagers rolled up their sleeves and grabbed rakes, trash bags, boxes of red petunias, buckets of paint and rollers to brighten up the brick building at 128 M St. NW.

The community center was only one of more than 50 locations in the District, Maryland and Northern Virginia being worked on by Servathon volunteers. It is home to 11 non-profit organizations and provides services ranging from prenatal care to elderly assistance, all under one roof.

Zelina Murray, 31, yanked out weeds surrounding the building’s wrought-iron gate. She volunteered last year for Greater DC Cares and decided to sign up again.

“This is a nice thing to do — beautifying a space — and, hopefully, the residents in the community will appreciate our efforts and maintain it,” said Ms. Murray, who works at Kaiser Permanente in Rockville, a sponsor of the volunteer effort.

Siobhan Canty, 39, president and CEO of Greater DC Cares, hopscotched around the District visiting volunteer sites. Organizers estimated 1,500 volunteers gave up their Saturday to refurbish, clean and renew low-income housing, schools, playgrounds and neighborhood parks around the area.

Greater DC Cares in Northwest also helps to match volunteers in the areas of technology, health care, board leadership, financial management and marketing with non-profits in the metropolitan area.

“We are totally thrilled. For 1,500 people to come out for one day — this shows their commitment,” Ms. Canty said, beaming.

The Perry School Community Center was first on her list of places to visit. The center provides neighborhood services that include tutoring, mentoring, a dance program and career development for parents.

Volunteer sites in Virginia included the Arlington Food Assistance Center, where volunteers bagged and distributed groceries. In Prince George’s County, volunteers prepared and planted a butterfly garden at the Mount Rainier Elementary School-Neighborhood Design Center.

“This is a great site,” Ms. Canty said of the Perry School Community Center as volunteers planted flowers, mowed grass and removed trash from the outside of the building. Mayor Anthony A. Williams paid an early afternoon visit to the center, stopping to chat with volunteers and pose for a picture or two.

“We hope this [event] will be a call to action to get people to understand the impact they have by donating a few hours a day of their time,” said Ms. Canty, who lives in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Northwest.

Olamide Anibaba busied herself by giving a lower-level activity room in the building the once over with a coat of fresh white paint. Ms. Anibaba, of Largo, and her daughter, Deborah Thompson, 13, just wanted to help the community.

“It’s a good deed. I don’t have money to give and so I give of my time,” Ms. Anibaba said, adding that Servathon 2004 marked the first time she had participated in a volunteer activity of this magnitude. Deborah, an eighth grader who attends Ernest Everett Just Middle School in Largo, said the day was fun and productive. The mother and daughter team handled the rollers like pros and painted side by side.

“It’s good to give back to the community. If I weren’t here, I would be at home relaxing, maybe watching television. But this makes me feel good because I know that I’m doing something to help others,” Deborah said.

Across the room, Marcus Gray,14, Matthew Gilbert, 14, Christopher Platte, 14, and Robert Davis, 14 — all members of Boy Scout Troop 1657 from Landover — exhibited their abilities with an artist’s paint brush. The scouts painted a backgammon board mural in vivid blues, oranges and greens on the wall of the room, stopping briefly to inspect their artistry.

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