13-17yrs, 18 & over, 8-12yrs, commentary, Education, inspirational, personal development

Meeting President and First Lady Obama

tanja-writes-to-the-troopsI am so excited about helping my community through volunteer efforts that I must share my experiences.  Self-gratification and empowerment are just some of the rewards I have received from the small sacrifices I have made.  At the close of 2008, I decided to make a conscious effort to help others.  I didn’t want to just join a book club, but wanted to join a group of positive women.  This group would serve as a platform for support and hands-on community service.  Moved by the President Elects’ commitment to change as well as the continued urge to extend more of my time and efforts, I was led to act on my desire.  One of the first things that prompted me to begin was an unfortunate tragedy.  When in yet another senseless act of violence, a young black father was gunned down and killed in gang violence and left behind a 2-year-old toddler whose mother was institutionalized with very little resources.  This incident took place, not in my suburban neighborhood but in the inner city in which I was raised.  I was compelled to extend myself because after all, any community that plays a role in raising our youth is ultimately my community.  A simple call to a few close friends resulted in getting an abundance of clothes and shoes for the child to wear in the approaching winter.  The sheer satisfaction of going back and seeing the toddler in the coat and ready to face the winter was touching to say the least.  With that inspiration, I was driven to call upon my friends and family to start our own organization committed to community service.  We formed Women Empowered by Grace and our mission is to inspire and create positive change within our communities through mentoring, fundraising, networking and community service.

How appropriate was it that our kick-off meeting was held on the day that President Elect Barack Obama was coming through Baltimore, MD on his inaugural train ride?   We were able to close our meeting in fellowship while watching the President Elect speak to a crowd of 40,000 people from our community.  Coincidence maybe, but I call it destiny.  We were already geared up from the great discussions and brainstorming we’d had about our commitment to change in 2009.  President Elect Barack Obama and Michelle Obama being in our town put the “icing on the cake”.  Everyone was excited about the upcoming inauguration the following weekend.  I especially was excited because I was one of 60,000 people that applied to volunteer with the Presidential Inaugural Committee and had actually been called to service.  My assignment was to volunteer at one of the National Day of Service Events on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  These events were held all over the world as the President Elect called on all Americans to take action and get involved in our communities.  This was directly in line with my personal mission and commitments!  My assignment was to assist volunteer service groups working on various projects for our troops, at Calvin Coolidge Senior High School in Washington, DC.  I attended the orientation and training for the Presidential Inaugural Committee volunteers and was told to dress appropriately for the cold temperatures that were expected throughout the inaugural events.  Upon arriving for my assignment all bundled up, I was down for whatever.  I was briefed on my post, which was to greet guest after they had gone through security and to manage and direct the flow of guest.   The Committee informed us that the Vice President Elect, The President Elect and Michelle Obama would be coming as well.  To say this was a pleasant surprise is putting it mildly.  This high school event was by invitation only to local children and neighborhood officials.  This made for a very intimate and small crowd of enthusiast volunteers that rotated between various stations working on projects for our troops.  Some of the stations featured letter writing, quilt making, video messages and other heartfelt items that were being sent to the troops.  There was music and great food sponsored by several Washington, D.C. and national restaurants.  After everyone had entered and were shifting between stations, the Presidential Inaugural Committee volunteers took part in various projects.  I personally enjoyed writing several letters and recording some video messages for our troops.  Vice President Elect Joe Biden then came in with donuts for all the children.  The audience was surprised, as they didn’t expect any visitors.  They were even more surprised when a very subtle announcement was made saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, President Elect Barack Obama and Michelle Obama.”  In strode a jean clad Barack Obama and his wife Michelle.  Unbeknownst to us, the President Elect had been participating in community service events earlier, painting boys dormitories at a Washington, DC teen shelter.  It was so exciting and moving to hear him speak and to be so close to him.  He immediately said to all of us, “I am going to come around to each of you in here, so stay put because I might miss you!”  We all very patiently and gleefully waited our turn to touch the man that had inspired so many.  I was so charged by the day’s events, that I didn’t want to leave the high school.  After all, when I took this assignment, I didn’t know that I would meet our First Black Family.  Nor did I realize that I would meet other volunteers from all walks of life, some of which I networked with on job opportunities and much more.  You just never know whom you might meet when you give of yourself unselfishly.  Volunteering and Internships are great ways to gain experience and meet people.  It can pay handsome rewards for years to come.

Here are some pictures from that day:


I came back home inspired and ready for action.  This lead our newly found organization, Women Empowered by Grace, to adopt a family that had been granted their first home but had nothing it in for the 3 young children.  Our organization was able to get a set of bunk beds, a TV, and many other household items that made their transition smoother.  The reward that we received in knowing that the children wouldn’t have to sleep on the floor touched us all and continues to inspire us to do great things.  We are on our way to making a difference in our own communities and are taking the necessary steps to turn our inspiration into a global organization.  My hopes are that you too would be motivated and make some commitment to helping your communities.

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