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Vermonters pitch in for National Day of Service - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vermonters pitch in for National Day of Service

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Volunteers around the nation gathered today for a Day of Service -- working to improve their communities.

The events room at the Champlain Senior Center in Burlington is getting a new look -- for free.

"It's a tremendous gift for us," Champlain Senior and Community Center Director Bonnie Campono says. "This is something we could never do without everybody's help. We have this morning 16 people here painting. I don't know if we could ever get that together ourselves."

More than 5,000 meals a year are served to seniors out of this room. But Campono says it hadn't been given a new coat of paint in years, and a job like that would have cost them about $2,000 -- money they just don't have.

"That is a significant amount of money," Campono said. "We run on a shoestring budget, so everything we have, every cent, is set aside for particulars, whatever they are, in operation."

But Saturday they had the helping hands of willing volunteers who donated their time and supplies for a National Day of Service. It's an effort to honor Dr. Martin Luther King's legacy by getting people out in their communities, tackling local problems. This project was one of about 15 in Chittenden County alone, with more projects across the state.

"I think to give back to others who can't really do it themselves is really important," says UVM student and volunteer Miriam Podheiser.

"Everybody I think needs to have that feeling that they're participating, that they're part of the solution, as opposed to part of the problems," says Shelburne resident and volunteer Louis Hanlon.

And many hands -- make light work. Organizers say they expect more people this year thanks to better planning and outreach.

"It's either for people to continue doing what they're already doing or to commit for the first time, to say 'This year, I'm going to commit 10 hours, 20 hours, 200 hours'," says Chittenden County Service Coordinator Anna Niemiec. "Because every time you do something for the community, you make it a stronger place."

Organizers also want to make sure those working this Saturday continue helping. Volunteers are encouraged to fill out a Passport to Service, pledging to donate time throughout the year to improving their communities.

The Day of Service was part of the kickoff to President Obama's inauguration, which happens on Monday.

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