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Dr. King Day of Service

Annual event will be celebrated Jan. 21

Despite the violence gripping Philadelphia's neighborhoods, Todd Bernstein holds onto one of Dr. Martin Luther King's frequently cited messages - building the community through service.

On Jan. 21, with his organization - Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service - Bernstein will host its signature community-service project at Germantown High School to commemorate the 13th year of citywide community-service programs. Last year, nearly 50,000 volunteers participated in 600 projects in the Delaware Valley, he said, and this year should be no different.

"We want to encourage organizations to create their own community-building projects," he said yesterday. His organization will match volunteers with a project.

To participate, volunteers should register online at or call 215-665-2475, Bernstein, who is also the group's founder, said.

Bernstein chose to hold the signature program - one of many service projects in the city - at Germantown High, at Germantown Avenue and High Street, because of "the challenges it has faced recently," he said referring to the Feb. 23 assault of Frank Burd, a former teacher there.

Among some of the featured events are: a children's carnival and a re-enactment of a moment in the Civil Rights Movement, he said.

There also will be workshops on conflict resolution, parental involvement and decreasing recidivism.

Philadelphia's service effort is the largest King Day of Service in the country, according to Bernstein.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday and Service Act, which expanded the mission of the federal holiday.

The holiday is observed on the third Monday of January.

Bernstein, a soft-spoken man who said he works to achieve a "beloved community," in Philadelphia, is seeking people who subscribe to King's philosophy of community service.

"We want to celebrate the life of Dr. King through service," he said. *