Thirty-five Iowa republican delegates boarded a bus in Manhattan yesterday and got out in Harlem. The group volunteered to spruce up a park. Some sanded and painted park benches. Others worked on landscaping, spreading mulch. Keith Hunter of Des Moines has never been to New York City before and relished the chance to see another burrough. “It’s an opportunity to show the true heart of republicans, to give back to those in need,” Hunter said. Bernard Hayes of Cedar Rapids says he wanted to do something to “pay back” New Yorkers who’ve been so welcoming of the G-O-P, and that includes wielding a paint brush or broom. “I’m willing to tackle anything,” Hayes said just before boarding the bus. John Ortega of Bettendorf says he went the park to “accomplish something positive. Unlike the democrats, what they do is just tear things up and cause havoc and we’re going to give a little bit back to the community…leave a little goodness here.” Luana Stoltenberg of Davenport was also part of what the GOP billed as its day of “compassion in action.” “I guess we hope to let people know that republicans are very compassionate and we do love people and that’s why we’re involved in government,” she said. Ray Hoffman of Sioux City says it was a “remarkable” day, working alongside people from North Carolina and South Dakota. “Get out there and do something, rather than just taking all the time, give back,” he said. “I’ve been really, really lucky and I’ve kind of lived the American dream so for me it’s just kind of a natural to do something like that.” Several legislators were part of the group, including state Senator Larry McKibben. “Part of what we need to do as republicans is put a face on the party,” McKibben said. “Not only is the war on terror important, but our relationship to people and I think the ‘Compassion Across America’ (program) is a great way for the republicans to go out and say to folks, ‘Look, you know we care about your ordinary lives, your daily lives and we care about your communities and we’re going into your community to help,’” McKibben said. Senator Nancy Boettger of Harlan who came prepared for hard work. “I brought my work gloves,” she said, holding a pair of leather gloves. “I don’t do any work outside without my glove.” And state Representative Dwayne Alons of Hull worked alongside. “I think it show people that republicans are compassionate people and want to help folks out…we want to extend our hand,” he said. Isaiah McGee of West Des Moines helped organize yesterday’s service project, and he was invited to sit in Vice President Dick Cheney’s box last night in the convention hall.
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