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Obama uses SMS to call for national service

President-elect Barack Obama is using mobile to rally Americans to help with service projects before his inauguration as 44th president of the United States.

People who signed up to get updates from the Obama presidential campaign were pleasantly surprised Jan. 15 to receive an SMS text message that evening. Here's what the message sent to this writer at 6:53 p.m. EST said:

"Help President-elect Obama renew America w/ service projects around the Inauguration. Txt SERVE to 56333 for info. For Inauguration updates txt HISTORY to 56333."

The message was a clear call to action and came four days ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 19, a Federal holiday marked as a national day of community service.

Tomorrow is Inauguration Day. Mr. Obama, a Democrat, will be sworn in as the 44th president of the U.S., succeeding the Republican George W. Bush.

To those responding to the Obama message, texting SERVE to 56333 returned this text message:

"Welcome to updates about the President elect's commitment to service http://USAservice.org. Txt HELP for help & STOP to quit. Standard rates apply."

Texting HISTORY to 56333 yielded another a reply with a request for more targeted information:

"Welcome to Inauguration 2009 News & Updates. REPLY with your ZIP CODE for local event updates. Txt HELP for help, STOP to quit. Std charges may apply."

Once the ZIP code is texted in, the return SMS directs the individual to Mr. Obama's inauguration site:

"Thank you for updating your zip code. To learn more about the Inauguration visit www.pic2009.org."

The site at http://www.pic2009.org is Mr. Obama's site geared to raising funds for the Inauguration tomorrow.

Meanwhile, several hours after receiving the first text message encouraging service and then exchanging various text messages, this writer received this SMS Sunday, Jan. 18:

"Thanks for volunteering this weekend & renewing America. For info on local events visit USAservice.org. REPLY to this msg & tell us about your service project."

USAservice.org was launched as part of Mr. Obama's initiative to "Renew America Together." It is a platform that offers volunteers and visitors an idea of the local-service events they can choose to host or attend to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Here's what a Jan. 7 blog post from Jill Biden, wife of Vice President-elect Joe Biden had to say:

"Today, I'm excited to share some news with you. You may have already heard that the President-elect, Michelle, Joe and I are planning to spend the day before the Inauguration -- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day -- performing activities devoted to serving others in neighborhoods across the Washington, D.C. area. We're hoping you join us -- not just in service activities that day, but in making an ongoing commitment to serve our communities and our country. To help, we're unveiling a brand-new website: USAservice.org.

"It's a tool that will allow you to organize a service event in your community and recruit others to join you. Or, if you'd prefer to join an existing event, the site will direct you to what others have organized in your neighborhood. For those of you who were supporters during the campaign, it's a lot like what we did on my.barackobama.com.

"You built this movement -- person by person, neighborhood by neighborhood. And that's how we'll begin the work of renewing America's promise: together.

"Like many of you, Joe and I believe our nation has one truly sacred obligation: To take care of those who defend our families, our country and their families. And as a mother with a son in the National Guard, I know the strains that deployments can have on military families. There are countless stories of untold bravery -- of sacrifices so profound, but also so unknown to everyone but the families of those who are serving.

"Whether it's assembling care packages for our service men and women stationed around the world, supporting programs for at-risk youth, or fixing up a park in your neighborhood, USAservice.org can help you find the perfect way to serve near you. And if not, you can create your own event and recruit others who might just share your same passion.

"As we come together to begin the work of renewing America's promise in earnest, we need you now more than ever. Because the way you built this movement is the only way we're going to rebuild this country -- one block at a time."