Communities Honor Cesar E. Chavez through Volunteer Service

Mar 31, 2014

White House event recognizes AmeriCorps members as part of tribute to Chavez

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Throughout the month of March, communities across the country have commemorated the life and legacy of civil rights leader Cesar E. Chavez's work through education, celebration, and service projects.
The day of service, recognized around Chavez's birth date of March 31, celebrates his extraordinary commitment to a lifetime of service.  Community groups, schools, and other organizations use the event to reflect on Chavez's life and carry out service projects in his honor. 
On March 31, as part of a Champions of Change event, the White House will honor Germain Castellanos, AmeriCorps alum and current program director of SHINE Educational Leadership Program in Waukegan, Illinois and Xavier A. Muñoz, an AmeriCorps member serving through the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia in Alexandria, Virginia. Chosen because they embody the spirit of Chavez’s legacy, Castellanos and Munoz, along with the eight other community leaders, have committed themselves to improving the lives of others in their communities and across the country. 
“Cesar Chavez devoted himself to improving the lives of those around him and expanding opportunity for his generation, and those to come,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. “As the national service family, we are fulfilling Chavez’s legacy, as well as the promise of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, by making sure that, through service, more Americans have the opportunity to succeed and strengthen their communities.” 
 As part of the Administration-wide effort to celebrate Cesar Chavez Day, President Obama signed a presidential proclamation calling on all Americans to recognize the birth of one of America’s greatest champions of social justice by engaging in service. 
“I encourage Americans to make this a national day of service and education by speaking out, organizing, and participating in service projects to improve lives in their communities,” said President Barack Obama in the 2014 Presidential Proclamation for Cesar Chavez Day. “Let us remember that when we lift each other up, when we speak with one voice, we have the power to build a better world.”
This year’s projects will enlist volunteers in preparing community gardens, supporting local food banks, refurbishing schools and community centers, restoring historic sites, reading to children, and restoring communities struck by natural disasters. 
In Colorado, nearly 150 volunteers, including AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers, will join Serve Colorado and Regis University to support the town of Lyons in rebuilding homes and local parks that were damaged by the floods in 2013. In Keene, Calif., the Cesar Chavez Foundation brought 900 volunteers to restore and renovate the historic site where Chavez lived and worked.  Additional projects took place in California, Colorado, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia. 
A first-generation American, Cesar Chavez was born on March 31, 1927, just outside of Yuma, Arizona. The Chavez family became migrant farmworkers traveling throughout California to harvest crops after the family lost their farm during the Great Depression. A Navy veteran, Cesar eventually settled with his family in East San Jose, CA, where he first began working with migrant farm workers. Having experienced the hardships of life as a farm worker firsthand, Chavez worked tirelessly to improve the lives of farmworkers and Latino families. He passed away in his sleep, at the age of 66, on April 23, 1993. "We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community...Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own,” Chavez said.
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