By Jeremy Barr for Capital News Service
Skher Brown, leader of the International Capoeira Angola Foundation of Baltimore, needs just five volunteers to help his organization paint and move into its new studio.
For help, he turned to the organizers of the National Day of Service, to be held Jan. 19 in conjunction with President Barack Obama’s inauguration the next day. (Obama will have two inaugural ceremonies -- a more private affair on Jan. 20 and the official public one on Jan. 21.)
They asked him for more information about his organization, which, according to its website, “is dedicated to the maintenance and propagation of the martial art Capoeira Angola,” and now it's on the service list.
“I’m not actually sure what their criteria are,” Brown said.
Brown’s project is one of more than 30 service events to be held across Maryland and thousands of events nationally that will make up the National Day of Service.
A tradition dating back to Obama’s first inaugural in 2009, this year’s day of service coincides with Martin Luther King Day weekend, already a popular time for giving back.
“The National Day of Service is an opportunity for all Americans, no matter where they are, to be a part of the Inauguration,” Vice President Joe Biden said in a news release.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee, which is organizing service events nationally, is asking participants to photograph themselves with a sign reading “#iserve” and share it on social media platforms with the #iserve hashtag.
A full list of volunteer opportunities in Maryland -- and elsewhere -- is available on the PIC’s website,www.2013pic.org.
“It’s going to be one of the biggest national days of service that we’ve ever seen,” said Jason Waskey, Maryland director of Obama for America, which is organizing and providing logistical support for many of the state’s events, including Brown’s.
In Maryland, Waskey predicted that an event in Annapolis at the Banneker-Douglass Museum will rank among the biggest, with more than 100 volunteers.
Volunteers will make care packages for troops serving overseas, provide services needed for seniors and assist in community beautifying projects in two shifts, 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
While Waskey said that a goal of the day is “to connect the thousands of Obama volunteers with other organizations” in the state, the service events will be nonpartisan.
“We’re seeing people that were never involved with the campaign before,” he said. “They realize that this is a chance to give back to the community regardless of political affiliation.”
While Maryland for Obama spearheaded many of the events, some were already planned for the weekend.
In Montgomery County, for example, volunteers will collect food donations for Manna Food Center at all 27 Giant grocery stores in the county on Jan. 19 and 20.
The drive, one of Manna’s three major, annual drives, was planned in mid-November and just happens to coincide with the day of service.
With thousands of people heading to the area for the inauguration, though, Manna is “hoping for big returns from the weekend,” said Allison Anderson, development manager for the organization.
Jim Perkins, Giant's Montgomery County district director, is also bullish on the drive’s chances for success.
“Because of the Day of Service, you get more volunteers to the store. And when you get more volunteers, you get more donations,” he said.
Giant has worked with Manna on food drives for the last few years.
“It’s a natural, great partnership,” Perkins said. “There is so much need out there, even in an affluent county like Montgomery County.”
For Manna, the timing of the drive will help it get through the dip in donations that normally follows the holiday season, Anderson said.
“The spring is really tough around here,” she said. “Our shelves become a little less stacked.”
Manna took in 32,000 pounds of food during its last major drive in October, and generally receives between 35,000 and 40,000 pounds.
Anderson said Manna “will take pretty much anything,” but encourages people to donate healthy food.
To help guide donations, Manna publishes a Healthy Food Drive Wish List, which includes fruits and vegetables, proteins (mostly canned meats and beans) and grains.
Promoting healthy eating has been a priority of First Lady Michelle Obama and her Let’s Move! initiative, which aims to end childhood obesity.
Prospective volunteers can email email@example.com for more information about the drive.
Another Obama administration priority, immigration, will be a service project in Maryland. CASA de Maryland, an immigrant advocacy organization, will host a naturalization and deferred-action workshop at its multicultural center in Hyattsville from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
In June 2012, the federal government began accepting applications for its Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, under which it plans to “exercise prosecutorial discretion” for “individuals who came to the United States as children and meet other key guidelines.”
Volunteers will assist community members in “screening eligible applicants, providing information about the citizenship and deferred-action process, (and) completing and reviewing citizenship and deferred action applications,” according to the CASA event’s National Day of Service webpage.
“Just bring the documents required and we’ll do the rest!” the organization said on its Twitter feed.
Brown, of the International Capoeira Angola Foundation of Baltimore, is still playing a waiting game. After speaking to a reporter, he planned to call his event’s organizers to see if he will get his crew of five.
Will you participate in the National Day of Service this year? What events sound interesting to you?