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To Honor Obama and King, a Kid-Friendly Service Project

Richelle Fatheree wanted to do something this inauguration week that would capture the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr., and salute President-elect Barack Obama’s call to service.

She looked around for the right idea -- and then it hit her. Often when January rolled around, the Bethesda mother of three found herself dashing to Office Depot and Target to replace the battered folders and stumpy crayons her children would bring home after the end of the first semester.

Her children, like many others, were notoriously hard on their school supplies. She could afford to buy new ones, but knew that many -- particularly in this economy -- might not be so fortunate.

”I got to thinking about kids who couldn’t afford to replenish their supplies,” Fatheree recalled. “Here we live in Montgomery County, one of the richest communities in the country. Things like this shouldn’t happen.”

So last Monday, on a whim, she posted her idea for the project she calls "Second Semester School Supplies," in which people are asked to send supplies to her home for redistribution schools, on the USA Service web site. She wasn’t expecting much, but was surprised when people from as far away as North Carolina began responding.

“The response was just overwhelming,’’ Fatheree said. “I’m just really stunned. It’s such a small thing -- but then maybe that’s the reason it’s so popular. It’s something everyone can do so easily.”

Now the living room of her Bethesda home is filled with rulers, crayons, glue sticks -- and just about everything a school-bound student might need.

“I was only going to go to a few schools, but now I’m going to be able to hit a lot more,” she said, excitedly.

Fatheree shared an e-mail from Gail Worthington, who bringing her family to the inauguration from North Carolina -- as well as 50 12-packs of colored pencils and 40 sets of washable jumbo markers:

”We’re getting our snowsuits together for this big adventure in our nation’s capitol," the e-mail reads, "but even if it’s cold, it’s sure gong to be sunny and warm with hope -- especially on Monday with wonderful service projects everywhere like yours!!!”

-- Lori Aratani

By Washington Post Editors  |  January 19, 2009; 10:26 AM ET  | Category:  In the Community , Youth
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