WASHINGTON — Led by Michelle Obama, top members of the Obama administration will fan out across the country next week to participate in community service projects as part of a high-profile effort to spark volunteer work through the summer.
The first lady will join California's first lady, Maria Shriver, to help construct a playground in San Francisco on Monday. As she does, members of the Obama Cabinet will show up at volunteer sites in 15 states plus the District of Columbia.
"It's a way of saying you may not think you can do much, but here is something you can do," said U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, who'll serve breakfast to the homeless at the Second Chance Cafe at The Bridge in Dallas, where he formerly served as mayor.
He's worked at the cafe before and wanted to underscore the need for year-round help.
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"During Thanksgiving and Christmas, people are acutely aware of the need to help feed the hungry, but homelessness and hunger is a year-round phenomenon. During the summer is when they go begging for help," Kirk said.
"It's about giving back and serving the community," said Craig Fugate, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He's a former volunteer firefighter who'll meet with Community Emergency Response Team volunteers and others who support firefighters in Denver.
He hopes to highlight the work of volunteers who are training people to prepare themselves for emergencies such as earthquakes, hurricanes or tornadoes.
"It's more than just having a disaster kit," he said. "The program teaches people how to turn off the gas so houses don't start on fire, how to use a fire extinguisher. . . . The more people are prepared, the better we do in disasters."
They're kicking off what's called the United We Serve summer, which will run from Monday through the National Day of Service and Remembrance on Sept. 11. The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law earlier this spring, set that date as a day of service.
Obama urged Americans this week to focus volunteer efforts over the summer on four areas: community renewal, education, energy and the environment, and health. He also unveiled a new Web site to help people find projects where they can work.
The list of events:
- Michelle Obama will help construct a playground at the Bret Harte Elementary School in San Francisco.
Other members of the Cabinet, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, planned volunteer works later.
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