By Marie LeBlanc, Community Partnerships Coordinator
As yesterday’s blog post reported, this week marks the beginning of a new school year for Washington, DC students. The first day of school is a moment that stands out in most children’s and parent’s lives — one filled with excitement and eagerness, anxiety and nervousness. Since 2005, DCPS Beautification Day has aspired to make that moment a bit more … beautiful for DC’s public school students. For the past seven years, thousands of Washington residents have shown up at their local schools to “spruce up” the facilities in preparation for a new school year. The 2012 Beautification Day took place last week, on August 25, and saw a great turn out of volunteers at 115 different schools. This year, Catalogue nonprofit Hands on DC coordinated 75 volunteers at three schools to “beautify” in a variety of ways — from painting and gardening outside to cleaning and organizing inside.
We (Marie and Sherika) decided to pitch in and spent our Saturday morning at Orr Elementary School, where we were quickly put to work organizing donated books. (You might recognize this Ward 8 DC elementary from their impressive PSA-esque video promoting the school’s programs and its awesome learning environment.) After spending a few hours sorting through and organizing a storage closet full of books for use in classrooms this year, we took a few minutes to appreciate the other projects completed at Orr — including a freshly painted outdoor fence and newly planted herb garden in the school’s courtyard. (See pictures of Beautification Day at Orr online here.) DC Mayor Vincent Gray, DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson, and Chief of Police Cathy Lanier all spent time at Orr Elementary on Saturday morning, sharing their appreciation for the work put in by volunteers.
While the beginning of the school year is an important time to think about improving facilities for DC school children, Hands on DC works to support local schools throughout the entire year. Its main annual event is the spring Work-a-Thon, which brings thousands of volunteers into area schools for a day of maintenance and service. As an all-volunteer organization, Hands on DC relies on committed groups of people — the Organizing and Executive Committee — to develop and execute volunteer events, and keep the organization running. The next time you’re looking for an opportunity to volunteer and support DC area schools, check out Hands on DC and consider getting involved!