2nd Annual DC Family Afternoon of Service
Contributed by Benjamin Marks, Shinnyo-en DC Youth Association Member
On August 30th, for the second year in a row, members of Shinnyo-en Washington DC and their families and friends gathered for the Family Afternoon of Service in historic Old Town Alexandria. Shinnyo-en Foundation, in partnership with United Way Worldwide, sponsored the event at the Mary M. Gates Learning Center for the second straight year. Several local charitable organizations were invited to participate, including some that came last year.
The event began with opening remarks from the Foundation’s Program Director, Ineko Tsuchida, followed by a brief introduction of the participating organizations and their representatives who were attending the event. Then the participants broke out to different stations to participate in crafts and other activities.
Each organization had its own station for volunteers to participate in. Ronald McDonald House decorated and packed brown bags filled with breakfast items for families staying at the House to quickly grab on the way to visit their child in the hospital. Carpenter’s Shelter made no-sew fleece blankets for the homeless: “This is great! You can buy a blanket at Wal-Mart, but this hand-made blanket will give people the feeling that someone cares about them. That is priceless,” said Marion Brunken of Volunteer Alexandria. Friends of Guest House made welcome tote bags with small toiletries for women at the house. Well of Hope wrote letters for widows and orphans in Kenya, Africa and volunteers also collected shoes, which were donated to the organization, providing capital to purchase land and build houses for the women. Wright to Read made bookmarks, and play dough which are used for a literacy tutoring and mentoring program for elementary school children in Alexandria. Friendship bracelets were made for the children at the Cancer Center for Mongolian Children, while Senior Services of Alexandria decorated picture frames for their Friendly Visitors Program.
Mary Lee Anderson of Senior Services of Alexandria said, “this year, the picture frames will be a tangible reminder for our seniors that there are people who care about them.” Kelly McDermott of Carpenter’s Shelter shared how great it was that there were so many young kids participating and that “we can’t really have young kids [volunteering] at the shelter so it’s nice to have young kids participate in off-site events like this.” All of the recipient organizations agreed that, if Shinnyo-en Foundation were to have another event next year, they would all like to comeback again.
This year Shinnyo-en members came all the way from Philadelphia and Delaware to participate in the event. The event was a great opportunity for children. Many members brought their children to expose them to community service in a very fun way. One of our Shinnyo-en DC members brought his 14-year-old son. The father and son really enjoyed the event and wrote a thank-you note to one of the event support volunteers. Other volunteers were returnees from last year’s event, which included a past Shinnyo Fellow, Vigny, from George Mason University. While a majority of volunteers rotated through the various stations, Vigny gave all his time writing cards for Well of Hope widows in Swahili! Participants also received the new Infinite Paths to Peace t-shirts made by Shinnyo-en Foundation.