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Lots of good deeds rendered on holiday

Across Tampa, more than 2,500 people use the day off volunteering for a variety of civic-minded chores.

By DONG-PHUONG NGUYEN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 22, 2002

TAMPA -- All over the city, they volunteered their time to plant, paint, scrub and sweep.

A day off from work, school and chores Monday was a day of good will for more than 2,500 people who spent the federal holiday planting trees, laying down mulch and cleaning recreation centers in the city's second annual day of service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

At the George A. Bartholomew North Tampa Community Center in Sulphur Springs, neighborhood children donned garden gloves and lugged shovels taller than themselves to plant two young oak trees to honor the slain civil rights leader.

They divided into groups to start the planting process, which took place on the western edge of the center just outside a chain-link fence. They dug with such fervor that adults had to instruct the kids to shovel some of the dirt back into the gaping hole.

"It's important to do good because you should help each other," said Devin Anderson, 9. "And it's fun."

With one tree planted, the kids took a break to listen to Newberry Award-winning author Paul Fleischman read passages from his book Seedfolks, a story about a diverse neighborhood that came together to plant a community garden.

After breakfast of eggs and biscuits and a book signing by Fleischman, the children assumed their positions to place the remaining tree into its new home.

"Hopefully, 15 years from now, these kids will return and see the trees and be reminded of this experience," said Wesley Maiyo, the center's director.

Across town, a Girl Scout troop and civic leaders mulched pathways at Blackwater Hammock Park in East Tampa.

At the MLK Recreation Complex on Oregon Street, students from the University of South Florida's Black Student Union were hard at work scraping gooey gum from sidewalks and wiping windows.

The college students transformed the center's main building into a fresh-smelling, new-looking facility, emptying cupboards and using bleach and Ajax to scrub away grime.

They even disinfected the concrete ramp leading to the building's back entrance.

The student leaders perform community service throughout the year, not just on this holiday, said Tara Hayward, president of the BSU.

"We treat every day as if it were Martin Luther King Day," Hayward said.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service and Celebration continues today with tree plantings at Tampa Park Plaza and at Booker T. Washington Middle Magnet School, both in Ybor City.

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