WEST ORANGE, NJ--(Marketwired - Nov 4, 2013) - After the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, Kessler Foundation pledged its support to help people with disabilities recover from the storm. To date, the Foundation has awarded 29 grants, totaling more than $160,000, to organizations that support people with disabilities.
"People with disabilities lost housing, medical equipment and supplies and accessible vehicles; in essence, they lost their means of independence," said Rodger DeRose, president and chief executive officer of Kessler Foundation. "This led to lost wages as well as some having to be relocated to temporary housing facilities. Also, the loss of power for days, and even weeks, caused severe health challenges."
While the Hurricane Sandy Emergency Grants were a special edition of the Foundation's awarded programs, Kessler Foundation awards numerous yearly grants to initiatives that create or expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Since 2005, the Foundation has distributed more than $27 million in grants, leading to 3,000 job seekers with disabilities earning a paycheck. One grant, awarded to the G.I. Go Fund, became instrumental in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
In 2011, Kessler Foundation awarded $30,000 to the Newark-based G.I. Go Fund to launch a job training and home-based employment model for veterans with disabilities. Through the grant, veterans developed their resumes, received training in customer service and working in a home environment and were mentored through the early stages of employment. Fifty veterans with disabilities were hired in work-at-home customer service positions at PSE&G, SetFocus and NJ Vet to Warrior.
When Hurricane Sandy hit, 30 veterans with disabilities working for PSE&G fielded customer calls round the clock until power was restored. Because many utility workers could not navigate roads that were flooded or blocked by downed trees, these veterans were among the few customer service workers available to help customers.
"Companies who hire veterans with disabilities are hiring members of the most dedicated, hard-working and disciplined group of men and women that the world has ever seen. They are more capable than others of handling a career, regardless of their physical or mental wounds," said Jack Fanous, executive director of the G.I. Go Fund. "When applying for the grant, we weren't thinking of a work-at-home option. Kessler Foundation had the foresight to guide us in that direction and we just executed their vision. The program has been so successful that it has expanded to other cities and Fortune 500 companies are adopting U.S.-based call centers staffed by veterans with disabilities."
Kessler Foundation's Hurricane Sandy Emergency Grants also supported the efforts of service and advocacy organizations to resume operations to serve people with disabilities. Funding supported restoring accessibility and replenishing resources, home and vehicle modifications, compensating for lost wages and medical supplies, transportation to accessible group housing and equipping facilities with back up generator power.
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.