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While it’s not every year Washington sees an Inauguration Day — let alone one with the anticipated attendance for President-elect Barack Obama’s — the Martin Luther King Day of Service is an annual occurrence that sees folks volunteering to honor the memory of the late civil-rights leader. Thanks to the local gay group, Burgundy Crescent Volunteers, and the Presidential Inauguration Committee, GLBT locals shouldn’t have any trouble pitching in this year, too, no matter what sort of mayhem accompanies the Inauguration festivities. ”I think everyone is afraid to jump on the expressway or on the Beltway because of all the traffic that is expected,” says BCV President Jonathan Blumenthal of the Jan. 19 event. ”There are many dozens of opportunities in this region that people can find in their neighborhoods.”
He points to the Presidential Inauguration Committee’s Web site of local volunteer opportunities as a good source of options.
Jamie Citron, the LGBT community liaison at the committee, tapped Burgundy Crescent Volunteers for their assistance after hearing about the group from several local volunteers, with the goal of making this the largest MLK Day of Service since initiated by Congress in 1994.
”President-elect Obama’s message through the campaign was that his vision included everyone,” says Citron. ”Part of that vision is all Americans coming together to help all Americans. The president-elect believes that it has never been more important that we all come together in shared purpose to tackle the problems that we’re facing.”
Blumenthal says BCV has participated in the MLK Day of Service before, ”but nothing as systematic as this, and nothing on this kind of scale.”
While 20 slots to help at Food and Friends and another 20 to package safe-sex kits at Metro TeenAIDS have already been filled, Citron and Blumenthal say there are still plenty of opportunities to help.
For example, BCV also needs 200 people to help at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in D.C.
”I think everybody will acknowledge that there’s some serious disconnects between the LGBT community here in Washington and other communities,” says Phil Attey, who co-chaired the metro D.C. chapter of Obama Pride during the campaign. He will be volunteering at Food and Friends and with a to-be-determined, non-GLBT group on Jan. 19.
”The African-American community, the people-of-faith community, the Latino/Latina community … we need to work with them, to help break down those barriers and misconceptions. I think once we do, we’re going to have a much stronger base of allies here in the District when we go forward in asking for equality.”