NEW YORK – Michigan Republicans took time out from convention politics Tuesday morning to thank New York City for its hospitality. The delegation took part in community service projects to enact today’s convention theme, “People of Compassion.”
“We are imposing on the millions of people who live here in New York. We’re grateful for their hospitality. We want to give back,” said Michigan delegate Jared Maynard, who overse es the entire GOP youth movement in Michigan as third vice chair of the state Republican Party.
Maynard was one of a group of more than 100 delegates, alternates and guests from Michigan, Florida and Ohio who gathered in a Queens garage to paint and decorate 10 playhouses, each of which is destined for a different child from a broken home. Organizers said the project underscored the importance of a strong and stable family life.
“It’s exciting that I’m actually going to do something that someone’s going to use,” Maynard said, even as the bus driver became lost and had to flag down a police officer for assistance. The officer entered the bus to direct the volunteers to their destination and was met by grateful cheers.
During the ordeal, the delegation kept its spirits high, singing “The Victors” – the University fight song. One passenger joked that the driver was a Democrat.
When the bus finally arrived, volunteers were already working assiduously, decorating the playhouses in different themes – including tropical, floral and marine. One woman applied spots to a giraffe while a team of Michiganders painted a rainbow across the shingles of another house.
“I feel like I’m an elf making gifts for Christmas,” said one Florida volunteer as she painted furniture for a sports-themed house.
The garage was filled with the inspirational sounds of a symphony orchestra playing a full-length rendition of the NBC Nightly News theme music.
Each state’s Republican party has been conducting local service projects in the weeks leading up to the convention. The Michigan GOP organized blood drives, food drives and organ-donor sign-ups. Today’s volunteering, which also included a visit to a Harlem nursing home by a contingent from the Michigan delegation, was the culmination of the month-long community service campaign.
The service projects are only one item in a busy schedule of activities planned for the Michigan delegation. Michigan’s 397-strong delegation has been invited to Wednesday’s editions of the CBS Early Show and MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews. Each delegate and alternate was given two free passes to a Broadway show.
The Republican National Committee is sponsoring a Rock the Vote concert with Michigan native Kid Rock. There is even an RNC-sponsored event hosted by World Wrestling Entertainment superstars for members of campus group Students for Bush.
One of the few perks afforded the delegation is visits from top party figures at the national level. On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee spoke to the Michigan delegation, which profits from staying in the same hotel as the large delegations from Florida, Texas and Pennsylvania. Volunteers who arrived at the playhouse project early this morning met with Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney. New York Gov. George Pataki is scheduled to address the Michigan delegation today.
In addition, the Michigan delegation has been given a seat on the floor of Madison Sqaure Garden.
Amid the excitement of meeting party brass and exploring the Big Apple, delegates were reminded Monday to keep their identifying badges hidden to avoid conflicts with potentially violent protesters.
One group of protesters attacked a plainclothes detective Monday night outside Madison Square Garden, leaving him unconscious.
Michigan’s delegation includes 61 delegates and 59 alternates. Each delegate and alternate is allowed one guest. The rest of the delegation is comprised of party officials, state legislators and members of Congress. All of the delegates and alternates have been elected by Republicans in each Congressional district. Delegates and alternates must pay for all the expenses of attending the convention, including lodging, airfare and meals.