published Saturday, May 11th, 2013

U.S. Arabs, others engage in national service day

DETROIT — Roughly 2,000 Arab-Americans and others in about a dozen communities nationwide were volunteering their time Saturday as part of the National Arab American Service Day, tackling a punch list that included boarding up and tearing down abandoned homes in Detroit and cleaning up areas hard hit by Superstorm Sandy in New York.

More than 400 people worked in Detroit’s Old Redford area planting gardens, boarding up and demolishing abandoned homes, painting murals and doing other projects. The city’s metro area has one of the largest communities of Arabs outside the Middle East.

Volunteers in New York headed to the Rockaway seashore to help deal with the damaging aftermath of the Oct. 29 storm. Volunteers posting their progress under the Twitter hashtag “arabsserve” said they found chunks of drywall and other housing materials about a mile from the nearest residential area.

“All of the projects are very unique to the areas they are from,” said Ghida Dagher, spokeswoman for the Dearborn-based National Network for Arab American Communities, the coalition of 23 Arab-American community nonprofit groups in 11 states that organized the ninth annual event. Crews teamed up with local Arab and non-Arab organizations.

Some states fielded multiple projects. Michigan also had a volunteer crew working in Flint, as did New York in its western city of Lackawanna. Florida fielded service projects in Orlando and Miami, and California in San Francisco and Anaheim.

Other sites were in Houston, Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Miami. Bad weather forced a service project in Atlanta to be delayed until next Saturday.

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