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National Day of Service Draws Volunteers from Coast to Coast

President-elect Barack Obama has called January 19th, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a National Day of Service. People and groups nationwide have organized service events in their area to mark the day. Residents of Takoma Park, Maryland, just outside of Washington, DC, used the day to clean-up a local park and reclaim it as their own. VOA's Brian Allen has their story.

Residents of Takoma Park picked up the trash in their local park on a cold Washington-area day and put it where it belongs.

There were plastic rings from packs of soda and beer, a tire and even a discarded mattress. Over 100 volunteers chipped in to clean up the park.

President-elect Barack Obama said today is a National Day of Service that sets "the tone for the next four years."

Miriam Zimmerman explained why she organized the event.

"We have homeless people who live in the area," she said, "who are using it for partying and leaving trash everywhere. We wanted to send a message that this is our park."

Ella Rawson is eight years old. She came with her parents.

Jake Scott is a high school wrestling coach. He brought his students to help out, even though most kids have they day off from school.

"I think if they were off, they'd probably be sitting at home on the couch eating Doritos [chips] and serving themselves,” he said. “I appreciate the nation being called to serve, I think that's excellent, an excellent call."

The volunteers made sure no piece of trash was left in the park, even if it meant digging through the frozen creek. Some people chose to volunteer in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr.

But Ella Rawson has a different reason: "Because Barack Obama said [to volunteer]."

Zimmerman had similar feelings: "I think the real thing, and the reason why there are 120 people here, is because we're so excited about Barack Obama, and having a new president. And when he says, ‘We need your help,’ we want to answer."

Change has already come to this park outside Washington.

It comes to the nation on Tuesday, when President-elect Barack Obama becomes the 44th president of the United States.