In Philadelphia, Todd Bernstein, president of the community action group Global Citizen, is helping to bring more than 75 groups to City Hall to explain their volunteer opportunities to visitors. Global Citizen also runs the Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service and MLK365, which promotes year-round volunteer service and civic engagement.
“When you had this great outpouring of compassion after Sept. 11 , I don’t think it was effectively captured in a way that fostered its continuation,” he said. “On these days of significance, King Day or Sept. 11, it makes sense to underscore the importance of being an active citizen.”
In Boston, many aspects of the national day of service seem to be converging—a closing of the circle of Sept. 11, 2001; the wars that grew out of those attacks; and the death of Sen. Kennedy, for whom service was a passion. There, volunteers will meet on the Mother’s Walk pathway that wends through the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, 15 acres of urban parks. The volunteers will assemble care packages for soldiers overseas, write notes of support, collect food for families of wounded and deceased service personnel, and collect pledges for the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund. Sen. Kennedy pointed out many times that his mother lost her oldest son, Joseph, in World War II, said Diane Nealon, executive director of the fund and of the Massachusetts 9/11 Fund.
The military heroes organization was formed “largely by the efforts of 9/11 families who wanted to pay forward all the support they got,” Nealon said. Now, they and others can do so on the anniversary of that infamous day.
Elaine S. Povich is a freelance writer who covers politics.