NPR logo Painting Anacostia Red, White and Blue

Painting Anacostia Red, White and Blue

Despite the icy winds blowing through Washington, D.C., on Monday, there was warmth in the Anacostia neighborhood as nearly 800 people gathered to participate in a National Day of Service. Volunteers fanned out into three schools to renovate a library, paint bathrooms and spruce-up classrooms and hallways. The event was part of a nationwide give-back-to-your-community movement, encouraged by President-elect Barack Obama.

Here, some of the faces and voices we discovered:

  

The day also happened to be Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

In an open letter, First Lady-in-waiting Michelle Obama called on Americans to launch a "New Era of Service" on the eve of the inauguration of her husband as the 44th president of the United States. "Real change can't just come from the top down," Michelle Obama wrote. "It happens from the bottom up, and I believe this service day at this seminal moment in history will inspire millions of Americans to join the cause."

Thousands of Americans took up the Obamas' challenge by gathering to paint walls, clean bathrooms, serve meals, give blood, visit the elderly, fill packages for military folks and perform various other acts of neighborly deeds. All in all, there were more than 12,000 different projects for volunteers across the country to choose from.

Photography by NPR's John W. Poole