The Citizenship Project was founded in 1995 to promote citizen action and ongoing civic engagement. It organizes volunteer service projects and advises other organizations committed to volunteer service on how to maximize citizen community involvement. Todd Bernstein is the president of The Citizenship Project. He raises funds necessary to organize service projects. Bernstein’s work also spans to other countries and assists them to promote civic engagement.
In 1996, Bernstein started the Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service. He wanted to set up a model program that would transform Dr. King’s federal holiday into a day, which brings together thousands of citizens of all ages and backgrounds to honor the legacy of Dr. King by responding to community needs. Under his direction, the Day of Service has been the largest Dr. King Day service event in the nation annually. This event has engaged more than 40,000 volunteers. It has been recognized for furthering the awareness of the ideas of Dr. King and for the contributions the project and its volunteers are making toward solving local and national social problems, especially as they relate to youth. Bernstein received the Human Rights Award by the Philadelphia Human Relations Commission for his leadership in making the Philadelphia King Day of Service a national model.
This year, more than 18,000 people volunteered in 400 projects as part of 5th annual Greater Philadelphia King Day of Service. Over 80 local and national news articles and two dozen television news stories recognized the project for its work in mobilizing the community. Some of the projects begun on the King holiday but continue throughout the year.
One example of a project was 500 volunteers trained as new reading tutors by Philadelphia Reads who then made an ongoing commitment to read with children for one hour each week during the year. Residents of a North Philadelphia neighborhood and students from Beaver College began a project to turn an abandoned house into a community center. This building that was previously utilized by drug dealers is now a safe haven of hope and opportunity in the neighborhood.
In 1997 Bernstein was a national planner and served as director of external affairs for the Presidents’ Summit for America’s Future held in Philadelphia, the first national summit bringing together America’s current and former U.S. presidents to address domestic policy issues. His work to promote civic engagement has taken him to other countries, including Germany, Israel, Portugal, South Africa, and Ukraine.
Bernstein serves on numerous boards of directors. He is the president of the Fairmount Park Historic Preservation Trust. He is a member of the executive committees of the International Visitors Council and the Jewish Community Relations Council, where he also chairs their Domestic Affairs Commission. He is the founder and president of the Wissahickon Volunteer Corps and serves on the board of directors of the U.S./South Africa Leadership Development Program, Friends of the Wissahickon, Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, and Philadelphia’s Promise/ The Alliance for Youth.
Bernstein’s ongoing commitment to bring people together to solve some of society’s most pressing challenges serve as a prototype for the nation.