- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 6, 2009

CITIZEN JOURNALISM:

Consider it his last call to service. When the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts introduced the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act on March 8, bipartisan support catapulted the legislation through the Senate and House of Representatives in just 22 days. President Obama signed it into law on April 21, officially recognizing Sept. 11 as the National Day of Service and Remembrance.

“Senator Kennedy, along with Senator Charles Schumer and U.S. Representative Peter King, had long been a strong supporter of the needs and interests of the 9/11 community,” says David Paine, president and co-founder of MyGoodDeed.

Mr. Paine founded the organization in 2002 with Jay Winuk, brother of Glenn J. Winuk, a lawyer, volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician who perished in the collapse of the World Trade Center in New York. Both Mr. Paine and Mr. Winuk were present at the signing, held at the SEED School in the District.

“There was overwhelming support among 9/11 families to give the tragic events of September 11, 2001, a proper legacy,” Mr. Paine said. “It was decided to broaden [the commemoration and memorials] to be a day of service and remembrance so that future generations will not remember just the death and destruction but the spirit of unity and voluntary compassion of that day.”



MyGoodDeed.org is a nonprofit organization based in New York. Each year, it organizes activities that encourage individuals and organizations to set aside time on the anniversary of Sept. 11 to perform simple good deeds and acts of service that help others in need.

Since the initiative began as a grass-roots movement, more than 1 million people from all 50 states and 170 countries have visited the MyGoodDeed.org Web site, and approximately 400,000 have posted their plans to perform good deeds and service projects on Sept. 11, according to a press release from the organization.

Theresa Asmussen wrote, “My Boy Scout and Brownie Troops as well as the leadership group at my kids’ karate studio are doing Beanies for [Baghdad] and care packages for the troops.”

AndieEmt wrote, “I’m an EMT. I’m requesting to work a 12-hour shift in remembrance of our fallen heroes of 9/11.”

Across the nation, private citizens and organizations are gearing up to rekindle the spirit of service, tolerance and compassion that united America and the world in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.

Facebook and Twitter users and countless bloggers also are chatting up the event, encouraging others to observe the National Day of Service by volunteering, doing a random act of kindness or performing some other charitable service.

Spearheading efforts in the District is Greater DC Cares, in partnership with business. The 20-year-old organization has spent the summer months mobilizing volunteers.

Approximately 2,200 volunteers are expected to serve at 50 organizations next week as part of the inaugural National Day of Service, United We Serve campaign in the region. Some of the sponsoring organizations that have committed support and employees are Points of Light Institute/Hands On, Sam’s Club, Washington Gas, IBM and United Nations Foundation.

Sarah Fleischer, director of communications for Greater DC Cares, said, “Our expectation of this day is to really honor and remember the people whose lives were lost and those who rose in the spirit of unity.”

Ms. Fleischer also said volunteer opportunities will include working on landscaping projects at areas schools, feeding the homeless, reading to children, assembling burn kits for first responders and helping the elderly.

Anyone seeking to volunteer may register online at www.greaterdccares.org. A fee of $25 is suggested to cover the cost of supplies.

Janet Myers, a longtime community activist and Ward 4 advisory neighborhood commissioner whose husband is a D.C. firefighter, said she has not decided what volunteer role she will play this year, but she “vows” to participate in some manner. She is busy planning an event to help ease the pangs of loneliness and depression o many people, especially the elderly, experience during the holiday seasons.

According to its Web site, Serve DC, the D.C. mayor’s office on volunteerism, will mark Sept. 11 and the final week of Mr. Obama’s United We Serve initiative, Monday through Sept. 12, with service projects across the District.

United We Serve is the president’s nationwide service initiative, designed to meet growing social needs resulting from the economic downturn.

Launched on June 22, these 81 days of service will culminate on the National Day of Service and Remembrance.

The name Kennedy seemingly is synonymous with public service.

On Jan. 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy, just sworn in as the youngest elected president of the United States, enthralled the inaugural crowd when he said, “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what can you do for your country.”

Forty-seven years later, in his final months, Sen. Kennedy, the late president’s brother, put out the same call to action, and the American people have answered with a resounding, affirming voice.

Geraldine Washington is a freelance writer living in the District.

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