Pelosi Tours RFK Stadium 'Day of Service' Event
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty opened the gates at RFK Stadium in Southeast Washington this morning to thousands of volunteers who had arrived in force by 11 a.m. to make care packages for U.S. troops as part of the National Day of Service. Lines snaked around the front of the venerable old sports facility, with volunteers cheering people on, handing out clipboards and directing them to still more lines. (Update 5:04 p.m.: There were a reported 12,000 volunteers in all, officials said, including Michelle Obama and Joe Biden. They assembled 85,000 care packages.)
Inside the stadium, huge white tents felt like a carnival, with Motown music thumping, bright lights blazing, the buzz of thousands of people talking, and sudden bursts of screams and clapping.
People in sweatpants and business suits, suede boots and battered sneakers, filed in lines around a maze of tables manned by still more volunteers, dropping bright green packets of gum, toothbrushes, energy bars and other gifts into clear plastic bags. Some volunteers danced; others stooped over to lift heavy cardboard boxes.
“Keep moving! Only 40,000 to go!” a man told a mother and daughter who hesitated, not sure where to go next, as he steered them to the next table, the next green plastic bin full of tubes of moisturizer.
Another woman shook her hips to “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” as she dropped spearmint gum into her plastic bag, touched her Obama button, and let out a little “Yow!”
Donna Ellefson, who had come from Seattle for the inauguration, had been in line for an hour. A man a dozen or so people behind her had been shouting the whole time. “This is MLK’s legacy!” he bellowed. “Praise the Lord!”
“He’s just really happy,” she said, enjoying his monologue. “He did also tell us all to spend lots of money, because they need the tax revenue in DC.”
The assembly line was working beautifully, she said. “There are so many people, it’s so well organized. The atmosphere … for people who came in for the inauguration, this is really special. It gives you a way to participate that doesn’t involve standing in a long line on the Mall. And the feeling of doing something.”
She volunteered for Obama and Michigan, and this felt like the perfect next step; she hopes the energy from the campaign will continue in people doing things to help the country.
So what was she hoping for, at the end of the long wait ahead? “Just exactly what I’m getting right now,” she said. “Being with all the people, and knowing you’re doing something that will make a difference, a small one maybe, to someone at the end of the line.”
By 3 p.m., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) arrived to check out the scene, and she was greeted with applause.
By Susan Kinzie and Elissa Silverman
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