Delaware governor kicks off annual week of service

As Governor Jack Markell prepares to be sworn in for a second term in office, the state leader, paint brush in hand, kicked off a week of inaugural events at the Boys and Girls Club of Laurel.

Wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt, Markell joked that he wasn’t the “handiest,” but wasted no time getting to work.

Today’s event kicks off the governor’s annual week of service; an idea that started in 2009 when the state was facing an $800 million budget deficit. Rather than hosting a traditional inaugural ball, the governor and first lady Carla Markell hosted a “weekend of service” to encourage volunteerism. Eventually, a weekend turned into the week-long tradition.

While the first lady was unable to attend due to a cold, several members of the governor’s cabinet joined in, including Rita Landgraf, Secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services.

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“I personally have had the honor of painting the wall with a group called Sparkle, who are individuals that are from the Salvation Army,” said Landgraf. “They’re young adults with developmental disabilities. They’re volunteering today with the Boys and Girls Club and they also volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.”

Local volunteers also rolled up their sleeves like Laurel contractor Bob Wheatley, who helped assemble shelving units.

“We’ve put together these cubbies, we’re trimming them out and they’ll go in a corner,” said Wheatley. “Some of the other cubbies will need to be painted. There’s a lot of painting going on, there are many volunteers here. This is a great idea for the governor’s week of service”

Wheatley said he participated in the event because he’s “interested in seeing things get better” in the community and hopes the event will inspire others.

“I think it inspires other people when [they] see this kind of turnout and these types of things happening. I think it will help spread the word,” added Wheatley.

The Boys and Girls Club facilities in Sussex County serve between 400-500 children a day, explained Chris Couch, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Sussex County, and provide a safe, encouraging and positive after school environment.

“We’re making an impact on the community here,” said Couch. “Serving kids after school, providing power hour programs for character and leadership, sports, fitness and recreation.”

The Markell’s, along with Lt. Gov. Matt Denn and wife Michele, will continue participating in service events through next week.

Markell and Denn will be sworn into office Tuesday, Jan. 15, at Legislative Hall in Dover, followed by the Inaugural Ball at the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington.

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