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Kessler Foundation Awards $2.3 Million in Grants to Support Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities

WEST ORANGE, N.J., Jan. 11, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Kessler Foundation awarded $2,309,230 million in grants to organizations across the U.S. to support initiatives that create or expand job training and employment initiatives for people with disabilities. Since 2005, the Foundation's distribution of $30.6 million has led to improved job skills and paid employment for more than 3,000 individuals with disabilities.

"We are pleased with the success of these innovative projects as more people with disabilities enter the workforce," said Rodger DeRose, president and chief executive officer of Kessler Foundation. "An inclusive workforce not only benefits individuals with disabilities but the workplaces and overall economy as well. Businesses benefit from the creative solutions developed by employees from diverse backgrounds. Making a commitment to hire jobseekers with disabilities builds brand loyalty by attracting the $175 billion annual buying power of these individuals and their families. The economy benefits as individuals with disabilities become tax-paying citizens and lessen their reliance on government programs."

Nearly $1.6 million in Signature Employment Grants were distributed to initiatives in four states. The Maryland Customized Employment Project, an initiative of Supported Employment Enterprise Corporation, will improve employment outcomes for individuals with developmental disabilities by building collaborative partnerships with jobseekers and their families, state agencies and employers. The Mercy Health Foundation's Healthcare Workforce Inclusion Model will place individuals with disabilities in new or existing job opportunities in St. Louis, Missouri, by combining awareness, education and inclusiveness training. Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago will launch the Realizing Education and Advancement for Disabled Youth (READY) program to help students with disabilities in Chicago, Illinois, gain access to college, employment and economic independence through a two-track, person-centered model. Bridging the Gap from College to Careers, an initiative of the Florida Atlantic University Foundation, will provide a professional workplace-skills curriculum and other supports for college students with disabilities. Signature grants—the Foundation's largest grants—range from $200,000 to $500,000 over a two-year period.

"Our signature grantees will develop best practices for hiring and retaining people with disabilities," said Elaine E. Katz, senior vice president of Grants and Communications at Kessler Foundation. "When individuals with disabilities find jobs, their quality of life improves as they join an integrated team and gain financial independence. We anticipate that the models will be replicated throughout the country, leading to large numbers of jobseekers with disabilities finding lasting employment."

Kessler Foundation also awarded seven Community Employment Grants, totalling $600,000. The funds advance job training and employment opportunities, primarily for New Jersey residents with disabilities, while supporting entrepreneurship and social enterprise options for this population. In addition, grant dollars will promote the abilities of people with disabilities in the workforce through televised educational content, expand transportation options, connect artists with disabilities to potential art buyers and create professional workplace coursework and internships for college students with disabilities. Community grants range between $50,000 and $100,000 over two years.

The Foundation also distributed $119,000 in Special Initiative Grants. Funds support recreational activities for veterans and civilians with disabilities—including horseback riding and dance and the ReelAbilities: Disabilities Film Festival in New Jersey, to promote awareness, appreciation and artistic expression. Grants also support equipment needs for individuals with disabilities who are experiencing financial hardships and a weekend retreat to improve the quality of life of stroke survivors and their caregivers. Special Initiative Grant applications are by invitation only; awarded funds range from $5,000 and $20,000 for a period of one year.

To view all 2015 grantees, visit http://kesslerfoundation.org/aboutus/files/grantee.pdf. Kessler Foundation awarded an additional $240,770 to recreation and awareness initiatives, bringing the total to $2,550,000 for 2015.

Kessler Foundation is accepting applications for its 2016 Signature and Community Employment Grants. To apply for a Signature Employment Grant, visit https://kesslerfoundation.org/grantprograms/signatureemploymentgrants.php. Grant concepts must be submitted by March 18, 2016 at 5 p.m. EST. To apply for a Community Employment Grant, visit https://kesslerfoundation.org/grantprograms/communityemploymentgrants.php. Grant applications must be submitted by April 4, 2016 at 5 p.m. EST.

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit KesslerFoundation.org. Follow Kessler Foundation on Facebook (www.facebook.com/KesslerFoundation), Twitter (@KesslerFdn) and YouTube (www.youtube.com/user/KesslerFoundation).

CONTACT: Lauren Scrivo, 973.768.6583, LScrivo@KesslerFoundation.org Carolann Murphy, 973.324.8382, CMurphy@KesslerFoundation.org

Source:Kessler Foundation