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Event Culture Civil Society

2020 Civil Society Awards

Thursday October 2020


Robert Putnam Keynote Speaker, Harvard University and Coauthor of The Upswing
Shaylyn Romney Garrett Keynote Speaker, Coauthor of The Upswing
Carole Klingler LIFE: A Dementia Friendly Foundation | Lorain County, Ohio
Darryl "DMC" McDaniels & Sheila Jaffe The Felix Organization | Greater New York City and Los Angeles areas
Healy Chait, Liam Elkind, & Simone Policano Invisible Hands | New York, NY
Ruth Ellen Jacobson Tocando Music Project | El Paso, Texas
Shel Neymark Embudo Valley Library & Community Center | Dixon, New Mexico


For nearly 20 years, the Manhattan Institute has supported America’s long tradition of civil society by honoring nonprofit leaders who address and prevent some of our most pressing public problems. Amid the challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic, civil society efforts continue to be critical—even life-saving—forces in communities all over the country. This is why the Manhattan Institute’s Tocqueville Project is honoring five inspiring nonprofits with $25,000 Civil Society Awards for their work—with the help of volunteers and private philanthropy—to assist those in need, strengthen our communities, and keep our social fabric from fraying. The 2020 Civil Society Awards event was held virtually on Thursday, October 29, 2020.


Carole Klingler
LIFE: A Dementia Friendly Foundation [Support]

Located in Lorain County, outside of Cleveland, Ohio, LIFE: A Dementia Friendly Foundation is a faith-based nonprofit that offers free, weekly programming for individuals living with dementia, and their caregivers, in a safe, stable, and familiar environment. While dementia presents a variety of family-care challenges and costs for those touched by the disease, LIFE provides life-changing resources—education, training, and engaging activities—that improve the quality of life of the person suffering from the disease and their family members. With the help of dozens of volunteers and a multitude of local businesses, health-care professionals, and community partners, LIFE has served more than 150 participants and their family members since 2016 with love and dignity, helping them care for each other and providing a much-needed network of support.

Darryl "DMC" McDaniels & Sheila Jaffe
The Felix Organization [Support]

Founded by Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer Darryl “DMC” McDaniels of Run-DMC and Emmy Award-winning casting director Sheila Jaffe, The Felix Organization provides inspiring opportunities and new experiences to enrich the lives of children growing up in the foster care system. Since 2006, the organization has grown to include five summer camps in the Los Angeles and New York areas and offers year-round programming to allow foster care youth the opportunity to pursue their goals, develop their talents, attend cultural and sporting events, and more. Through these life-changing experiences, The Felix Organization empowers youth to realize their full potential, grow in self-confidence, build healthy relationships, and make positive decisions. With the help of more than 100 volunteers, community partnerships, and generous philanthropic support, the organization has served more than 10,000 youth, providing stability and care for those whose lives are marked by trauma and uncertainty.

Liam Elkind, Simone Policano, and Healy Chait
Invisible Hands [Support]

Invisible Hands is a New York City-based nonprofit founded in March 2020 as New York communities faced serious health and economic challenges resulting from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. At the height of the pandemic, Invisible Hands amassed 10,000 healthy, neighborhood volunteers, and they continue to provide contactless grocery delivery to the most vulnerable, especially people at high-risk for contracting a serious case of Covid-19. With a focus on mutual aid, the organization has bridged the gap between generations, brought neighbors together during a challenging time, and fought the dual problems of food insecurity and social isolation that were exacerbated by the pandemic. In just five months, Invisible Hands’ volunteers have completed thousands of deliveries to those in need—amounting to more than $1 million in food, medicine, and other necessities. Recently, the group expanded to cities in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, providing not only critical supplies, but social connectedness and a sense of community.

Ruth Ellen Jacobson
Tocando Music Project [Support]

The Tocando Music Project empowers children growing up in challenging social and economic conditions in and near El Paso, Texas, to transform their lives through music. Inspired by Venezuela’s “El Sistema,” an international youth orchestra movement, Tocando’s immersive music education provides its students, many of them children of first- and second-generation immigrants, with a strong sense of community and an opportunity to gain the tools, confidence, and motivation to succeed in life. With the help of strong community and philanthropic support, Tocando has touched the lives of nearly 300 students, helping them build valuable life skills—such as teamwork, leadership, and discipline—that pave the way for future academic and career achievements.

Shel Neymark
Embudo Valley Library & Community Center [Support]

The Embudo Valley Library & Community Center is a nonprofit public library and the local hub for educational, cultural, and recreational resources in rural New Mexico’s Rio Arriba and Taos counties. With the help of more than 60 volunteers, the library offers a multitude of community events and critical services—including the only free, public computers and internet connection available in the area—to more than 900 local residents and 8,500 people in the broader region. The library also provides robust children’s programming, including an early literacy program, after-school enrichment and tutoring for K–6th grade students, and a STEM program that offers students 3D printing and robotics classes. Participants in the youth STEM program have shown significant gains in technology-related skills and confidence, which highlight how opportunities for local school children have increased due to library programming and assistance from its staff.



Robert D. Putnam is the Malkin Research Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University, having retired from active teaching in May 2018. Raised in a small town in Ohio, he was educated at Swarthmore, Oxford, and Yale. He has received 16 honorary degrees from eight countries, including the University of Oxford. In recent years, Putnam has been awarded the Skytte Prize, the world’s highest accolade for a political scientist, the National Humanities Medal, and the Karl Deutsch Award from the International Political Science Association.

Putnam has written 15 books, translated into 20 languages, including Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Italy and Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, both bestsellers and among the most cited social science works in the last half century. His latest book, The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again, is a study of broad 20th century American economic, social, political, and cultural trends and will be published in October 2020.

Shaylyn Romney Garrett is a writer and award-winning social entrepreneur. She is co-author of The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again, and a founding contributor to “Weave: The Social Fabric Project,” an Aspen Institute initiative. She also contributed to Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell’s American Grace. In 2011, she was honored with the prestigious Draper Richards Kaplan Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship and was a finalist in the global Echoing Green Competition. Garrett holds a degree in government from Harvard University and is a returned Peace Corps volunteer.

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