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Gingrich dirties his hands to mark voluntarism day

Newt Gingrich faced one of his toughest opponents yet - dirt.

The House speaker spent Saturday leading a whirlwind tour of volunteer projects through his Georgia district and urging people to make volunteering a habit."There's a greater awareness of volunteerism" in America, the Georgia Republican said at a senior citizens' center in his north Atlanta district.

While hundreds of volunteers gathered in Washington to mark the annual Make a Difference Day, Gingrich made several appearances in his home district - including a Race for the Cure one-mile walk, a Habitat for Humanity building project and a middle school street-cleaning project - to mark the event.

But in praising voluntarism, Gingrich still managed to push his message of tax cuts. As taxes are slashed, he said, Americans will have more money and more time to volunteer.

Gingrich and a group of about 50 volunteers toured several projects, pitching in for a few minutes at each stop.

Helping teens clean the road outside Dickerson Middle School in Marietta, Gingrich donned an orange plastic vest, grabbed a matching garbage bag and dug into the dirt to pick out discarded glass and plastic waste.

"It's very helpful to try to build a habit of being involved in your community as a volunteer," Gingrich said. "I think it's part of what makes America different than most countries."

Earlier, at a groundbreaking for a new Habitat house, Gingrich said volunteering was a family tradition dating from when he was 5 years old and had to go to a summer camp for Girl Scouts. His mother was executive director of a local troop.

Gingrich didn't mind attending the all-girls camp.

"All the girls and all the mothers were sweet on me," he said.