WASHINGTON – The Presidential Inauguration recognized the "National Day of Service" Saturday by promoting volunteerism with events across the country. Participants are asked to commit their time to one of the many causes highlighted. The event in Washington, D.C., featured nonprofit groups and government organizations promoting, among other things, fatherhood, nutrition, and care for the poor, homeless and at-risk youth.
Nearly 100 organizations were represented at the D.C. event. They were divided into the categories of community resilience, economic development, education, environment, faith, health and veterans. While many well-known national organizations were represented, such as the American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, Habitat for Humanity and Salvation Army, it was also an opportunity to learn about the work of smaller and less popular organizations.
The event also included music by Ben Folds and Star Jones, co-host of ABC's "The View," was one of the speakers. Jones spoke on behalf of the American Heart Association.
Quoting Mahatma Ghandi, Jones said, "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others."
Heart health has become her purpose in life, Jones explained, after she had open heart surgery. She used to think that heart problems were something only "white dudes" had to deal with, Jones explained, but came to realize it is a serious problem for women and blacks as well.
Quoting the Bible, Jones said it is important for women to take good care of their heart because they are the "hedge of protection" for families.
Volunteers can encourage heart health in their communities, Jones suggested, by starting a 30-minute neighborhood walking group or a cooking class.
Fatherhood.gov is an initiative begun by President Barack Obama in his first term. It asks volunteers to pledge to mentor or provide resources for fathers.
"Men have to be present in the home. Otherwise, there's a different effect on the child," Regina Chamberlain, a spokesperson for Fatherhood.gov at the event, explained to The Christian Post.
Fatherhood.gov partners with other organizations to help match volunteers with dads in need of help and support. More information can be found at Fatherhood.gov or by calling the Fatherhood.gov hotline -- 1-877-4DAD411.
No Kid Hungry works to end child hunger in America. One of the ways it does this is through educating low-income parents on how to best provide nutritious, economical meals for their kids. The program will take participants to grocery stores and teach them how to find the healthiest food at the best price. Since uncooked food is often less expensive and more nutritious than pre-prepared meals, they also have cooking classes to teach participants how to prepare the food. Any organization, such as a nonprofits or a church, can partner with No Kid Hungry to use its curriculum.
The Sunshine Mail Foundation is only two years old and was invited to join the event. Stephanie Busby started the organization out of her home to mail care packages for children who are homeless, in foster care or in a hospital. In 2012, 2,500 care packages were sent out. The organization set a goal of putting together 700 care packages at the National Day of Service itself. By noon, they had already made 400 packages. Chelsea Clinton, former first daughter of Bill and Hillary Clinton, stopped by and put together one of those packages.
Liberty's Promise was another of the smaller organizations at the event. It helps immigrant youth through civic engagement and internship placement programs in Maryland and Virginia. The roughly 1,700 youth who have been served by the program since 2005 learn job skills, college preparedness and how to interview for a job.
The National Day of Service began in 2009 for Obama's first inauguration. Attendees at the events are asked to sign a pledge that they will commit to serving a certain number of hours in their community. More information can be found at the National Day of Service website.