By Adam Pincus
The volunteers, organized by the Mayor's Volunteer Center and an international not-for-profit called City Year, began the day at Elmcor Youth and Adult Activities center with calisthenics, military style exhortations and brief remarks sprinkled with Spanish from Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Event organizers called it “a day on, not a day off.”The 500 participants, standing in formation after a brief set of hip bends and jumping jacks, were addressed as “Beloved Community,” and when asked “How are you feeling?” they responded “Fired up!” They then heard from the mayor.”Dr. King challenged us,” Bloomberg said. “He inspired us to go out and make a difference. To reach out to the most vulnerable members of our society.”The volunteers came from all over the city, including Barnard College; the federal community-based Americorps programs in the city, which sent more than 250 people; and the residential ranks from Corona who registered through the city's volunteer center.Some of the participants spruced up the community center with murals depicting important events in the history of civil rights, while others undertook repainting projects at PS 19 at 99th Street and Roosevelt Avenue and the Corona Congregational Church at 102-18 34th Ave.The 32 murals, which will be hung at Elmcor, located at 33-16 108th St., included images of King, President John Kennedy, the Stonewall riot in Manhattan and women's suffrage.Dr. Lawrence Miller, executive director of Elmcor, said King was an inspiration for the neighborhood.”Dr. King gave so much to the community at large,” he said.Sarah Trabucchi, spokeswoman for City Year, said Elmcor was chosen as a site for the improvements for its ethnic diversity and also its commitment as a community organization, which make the hundreds of donated hours worthwhile.One of the young volunteers, 12-year-old Brandon Jackson, said being involved with the City Corps Young Heroes improved his life.”I think as a person I have changed,” he said. “I try to help out in my community. It comes more naturally.” Young Heroes is a program started 12 years ago that offers service programs on Saturdays for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders in the Bronx.City Year is a public and privately funded organization that promotes a year of community service by participants in 16 cities throughout the country as well as South Africa and has about 100 youth between 17 and 24 involved in community service and leadership development in New York City.