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National Day of Service: Anacostia (D.C.) High School and River Clean-up

anacostiacleanup.jpgThey were beautifying Anacostia Senior High School today in Southeast Washington, and cleaning up the Anacostia River, the city's often-neglected, lesser-known waterway that often gets second-billing to the Potomac. Hundreds of high school students, teachers, college students and other volunteers came to participate in the clean-up as part of Barack Obama's call to a National Day of Service.

Iris Edwards, 44, used to come to Anacostia Park as a kid. Families had parties, threw easter egg hunts, and enjoyed the river breeze. What she didn't do as a child was worry about the quality of the river itself. Now she wonders who left the trash she picked up today.

"I wonder which one of these bottles is mine," Edwards said, as she cleaned litter along the shoreline along with hundreds of others who had come to plant trees and beautify the waterfront. She was glad Obama had called for a day of service.

"Right now we're all wondering what we can do to help this country," she said. "You feel compelled to take part."

For some people yesterday, enthusiasm about the day's activities mixed with excitement about welcoming Obama as a new resident of the city.

Rumors and hopes for a sighting flew around Anacostia yesterday.

"I hear we might get a special visitor later," said Kim Harrison, a volunteer coordinator at Anacostia Senior High School. (Obama did visit Coolidge High in the morning.)

And one man picking up trash on the shore of the Anacostia River pricked his ears at the sound of sirens.

"I keep hearing sirens and thinking Obama's going to come," he remarked to a fellow volunteer.

A low-flying Marine helicopter that circled over the river -- at times trailed by a pack of geese -- did nothing to dispel the impression.

Dawn Berkeley, a biology teacher at Parkdale High School in Riverdale, MD, came with several of her students to help clean up the Anacostia River. By mid-day, they had filled a large bag with pieces of styrofoam and other trash.

"This isn't necessarily from around here," Berkeley said. "Some of this trash is coming from upstream," in Maryland. "What we do impacts everybody," she said.

Photo and story by Michael Birnbaum

By David A Nakamura  |  January 19, 2009; 2:31 PM ET  | Category:  In the Community , Volunteers
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