By Sandra Sobieraj Westfall
January 17, 2017 04:47 AM

 

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama made a sentimental choice for their  community-service observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, volunteering at the family shelter that’s now home to their daughters’ old backyard play set.

The first couple, just four days away from vacating the White House, ventured Monday to the Jobs Have Priority Naylor Road Family Shelter in southeast Washington to help residents paint a mural of Dr. King in the center’s community room.

The half-dozen school-aged children also wielding paintbrushes worked in such awed quiet as Mrs. Obama colored in a butterfly that she playfully complained, “We are painting in silence.  Does anyone have any good jokes?”

“Age-appropriate!” she hastily added.

MICHAEL REYNOLDS-Pool/Getty Images

The 28-apartment shelter is the charity to which the Obamas donated their daughters’ old swing set that, until earlier this month, sat on the South Lawn of the White House, just outside the Oval Office.

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The president and Mrs. Obama stopped outside the shelter to see the play set—now dubbed “Malia and Sasha’s Castle”—working its playtime magic. Mrs. Obama showed one small boy how to use the rope swing, while her husband pushed two little girls on the regular swings.

MICHAEL REYNOLDS-Pool/Getty Images

“Brings back memories,” he said, noting that Sasha was not much smaller than the girls at the shelter when the family moved into the White House on Jan. 20, 2009.

Just two months later, in March 2009, the Obamas installed the cedar and redwood set—with its fort, climbing wall, slide and swings—where President Obama could see it out the window of the Oval Office. Daughter Malia was 10 at the time. Sasha was just 7.

The swing set was first offered to President-Elect Donald Trump and his family, who turned it down and led the Obamas to donate it. (Trump’s wife, Melania, and son Barron, 10, will not move into the White House immediately, the president-elect revealed in November. They will continue living in New York City for at least six more months so that Barron can finish out the school year.)

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