On the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, hundreds of volunteers gathered in a cavernous hall of the D.C. convention center to honor the victims by taking part in community service.
People from fraternities and sororities and community and business groups were among up to 700 volunteers working in shifts to prepare meals for area food banks.
“Instead of having a day where we’re focused on the pain of the tragedy of 9/11, we’re trying to do some good,” said Shawn Pearson, event planner for the 9/11 Day Meal Pack Event.
The volunteers stood elbow-to-elbow at long rows of banquet tables, their hands busy measuring, pouring, seasoning and packing as many as 200,000 meals.
All volunteers were required to present proof of COVID vaccination to participate and everybody wore face masks.
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A DJ pumped out music and some of the volunteers bounced and swayed to the beat while they did their job in the assembly line of compassion.
“It’s a way of giving back and a day of service — not just a day off, but a day of service to give back to those who are less fortunate,” said Lamont Mitchell, of D.C., a volunteer from the Anacostia Coordinating Council, a nonprofit which provided 17 people to help direct the operations at the meal packing event.
G-Wiz and Slapshot, the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals mascots, turned up at midday, encouraging the volunteers with dancing and photo-ops.
Volunteers loaded the meal packages into cardboard cartons and stacked them on wooden pallets destined for the Capital Area Food Banks.
Similar meal packing events were scheduled Saturday in New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Atlanta, Dallas and St. Louis.