LOS ANGELES — People across the United States volunteered for community projects Saturday in an activity called the National Day of Service, tied to a holiday Monday honoring the memory of America's best known civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr.
In Washington, President Barack Obama appeared at an event, one of many moved to Saturday because his second inauguration before thousands of people will take place on the King holiday.
The president and first lady Michelle Obama got into the spirit of the National Day of Service, as they applied wood stain to a bookcase at an elementary school in Washington.
Near Los Angeles, volunteers at a local church built a community garden, and others brought baby diapers to a homeless services center. Volunteer Patrick O'Connor says there are many other projects in this neighborhood.
“Food drives, community beautification projects, working at schools, community gardens. There's a lot of ways to do good,” said O'Connor.
In Washington, Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of former U.S. president Bill Clinton and U.S. Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton, urged people to become involved, and young people in Pasadena, California, heeded the message.
They planted trees at a local high school, an annual effort that occurs at a different school each year, says volunteer coordinator Wayne Burton.
“We try to improve the looks of that school, either by planting flowers or trees, or sometimes painting, or just cleaning up,” said Burton.
At a local boys and girls club, some volunteers painted while others worked outside digging up weeds in the yard.
Volunteer Flor Braxton says these efforts improve her neighborhood.
“This is one way how we can work together as a team, as a family, as a community, and make something good in our society,” Braxton said.
In Maryland, on the East Coast, the African American college fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha celebrated the legacy of Martin Luther King, who was a member. Cynthia Jiles, who leads a local charity, says King's message of community service is important now.
“There are a lot of people who are having difficulties, a lot of situations that need to be rectified, and we need to start today and then carry on throughout the year,” she said.
Volunteers say these community projects offer a chance to meet neighbors and do good at the same time.