Monday, May 12, 2008

DC Cares Servathon

Greater DC Cares, a local coordinator of volunteers and corporate philanthropic efforts, held its annual Servathon last Saturday (May 3rd). This year, all 3,200 volunteers descended on DC Public Schools to help spruce up the classrooms and playgrounds for local kids. As a former teacher, I can tell you that children feel empowered when they are given a clean, bright, beautiful learning environment. I helped organize the background logistics for my child's elementary school and then stood back in awe as our Servathon team leaders swarmed our school grounds with at least 50 volunteers!

The picture above is of our school's larval veggie garden site above a US blacktop map that got colorfully repainted. Volunteers also: catalogued books (ie got new books in the hands of kids!); replaced gnarly sandbox sand; painted hoops court lines, foursquare, and hopscotch; stabilized stairs to kindergarten lofts; fixed falling-apart cabinet hinges; raked, weeded, and planted flowers; turned over soil for new vegetable gardens; brought all their green waste to compost in the children's garden; and painted railings. I'm probably leaving something out, since there was literally a swarm of activity during the roughly 4-hour event.

The Servathon volunteers truly bolstered my faith in humanity. They worked tirelessly and with enthusiasm. Among the volunteers I worked with were: a twenty-something whippersnapper from U Street who's lived in DC for two years who spent backbreaking hours with a shovel making sure the kids can plant veggies; a public school teacher from Alexandria who wished her school system had similar efforts so she joined in across the river; a neighbor who doesn't have kids at the school any more but knows everything about the plantings around the school (helping volunteers not to 'weed' established plantings); current parents and teachers; and two young businesswomen who tirelessly and efficiently weeded in a team (they're in the garden plot at the top) and kept my five year old entranced.

I can't express my gratitude enough to the leaders of our project site, who showed up for multiple site visits beforehand, who carefully listened to the school's proposals for work and worked tirelessly to source materials and skilled volunteers to meet our community's needs. I put in a fraction of the hours they did and literally the event would not have happened without their logistical support, organization skills, and inspiration. A hearty thank you to DC Cares! Click through here to read a great profile of the work they do in our nation's capitol.

8 comments:

Susannah said...

The school does look fantastic and did you know that games of foursquare and hopscotch are now All The Rage during recess and aftercare? That's a real before/after effect!

MamaBird said...

Awesome! I did *not* know that - EGirl's home with strep... Thanks for the lowdown!

Sojourner said...

Sounds like a terrific project, wish more cities would organize efforts like that. Can you imagine what our communities would be like if everyone pitched in and volunteered for stuff like that? There would be no problems. I once participated in "Brush Up Nebraska!" which was a volunteer organization that had an annual Paint-a-thon week where volunteers painted the homes of elderly, handicapped or very low income persons. It made a huge difference to those people and their neighborhoods. Cool stuff.

MamaBird said...

I know, Sojourner, I have to say I was extremely impressed with the energy and talent of the volunteers who showed. So many of them obviously were just looking for ways to help out - I'm very glad DC Cares exists. In lots of communities, I imagine that religious communities spearhead efforts - this one targeted the business community so it may pick up a whole host of other goodhearted folks. That Paint A Thon is a marvelous idea as well -a coat of paint does wonders.

Anonymous said...

Hands on DC is another great organization that helps spruce up schools. I have worked with them and let me tell you, they are one efficient, energetic bunch of organized young twenty-somethings.

I also love involoing the kids from the school in these events. They really take ownership of the gardens and classrooms when they are included in cleanup/spruce up days.

Tory

MamaBird said...

Thanks, Tory, I will check Hands On DC out too. I agree, the fact that one little girl painted the hopscotch (and 4-5 kids raked and weeded 'their' garden plots) made the day all that more meaningful.

Going Crunchy said...

How amazing!

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

What a great effort. It does make me a little sad that having bright, welcoming school environments is not already budgeted for.