A Day Of Service Could Last A Lifetime For Mass. Volunteers

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Many Massachusetts residents, already in Washington for the inauguration of Barack Obama, will be volunteering for Martin Luther King Day. Gov. Deval Patrick helps kick off a national volunteer mobilization effort called "Renewing America Together."

The grassroots campaign network of Barack Obama has inspired many people who had never been involved in politics to get involved. Now, some Bay Staters say they are forever changed and have found a new calling as volunteer organizers. WBUR's Monica Brady-Myerov reports from Washington.A year ago, Sue Pierce, of the Jefferson neighborhood of Holden, Mass., and Rhonda Berthiaume of Worcester, Mass., didn't know each other. And they certainly never dreamed their Congressman Jim McGovern would know them.

But at last night's Massachusetts pre-inaugural party in Washington, the two women chatted with Congressman McGovern about the energy in the nation's capital.

Pierce is 36 and a stay-at-home mom. She threw an Obama house party because her sister pressured her into it.

Berthiaume is 51 and was also never involved in politics or volunteering. But within weeks of meeting Sue Pierce at her house party, they were organizing more house parties, rallies and get-out-the-vote efforts in eight other states. Berthiaume says her trip to Washington is energizing her to stay involved in community service back in Worcester.

This weekend they drove down together to Washington, along with two other Massachsuetts women who are also passionate volunteers. They are all crammed in one hotel room, a small inconvenience, they say, to witness what they helped to make happen — the swearing-in of Barack Obama.

But their involvement doesn't end with the ceremony, Pierce says.

Now, they are focusing on service projects in their local communities, like collecting food and coats for people affected by the ice storm. Arthur Powell, a field organizer for the Massachusetts Democratic party, says he has seen a new sense of commitment.

Powell says many inaugural events in Massachusetts this week are raising money for charity, another indication there may be lasting effects from Obama's community organizing.

Many volunteers expect to continue their community involvement, expecically Sue Pierce and Rhonda Berthiaume.

Pierce and Berthiaume will spend Monday, Martin Luther King Day, making care packages to send to the military.

This program aired on January 19, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.