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Kessler Foundation Grants $484,452 to NDI to Expand Disability Employment in Financial Industry

WEST ORANGE, NJ -- (Marketwire) -- 01/30/13 -- Kessler Foundation awarded a $484,452 Signature Employment Grant to the National Disability Institute (NDI), in Washington, D.C., to launch an employment initiative to increase opportunities for people with disabilities in N.Y. credit unions. This Signature Grant is part of more than $2.17 million in grants distributed by Kessler Foundation to improve employment and job training options for Americans with disabilities.

The project, entitled, "BEST (Building Economic Strength Together) Employees N.Y." is an enhanced version of the 2009 Kessler Foundation-funded pilot initiative of BEST Employees in N.J. Individuals with disabilities will receive banking training. Upon successful completion of training, individuals will participate in vocational rehabilitation's (VR) Work-Try-Outs and On-the-Job Training to place them in proper internships.

"Kessler Foundation funds innovative initiatives to help solve the low employment rate for people with disabilities," said Elaine Katz, vice president of Grants and Special Initiatives at Kessler Foundation. "Individuals with disabilities are often an untapped resource in the workforce. When given the opportunity, they have the skills to greatly contribute to an organization. Employee dedication and productivity improves, which increases the bottom line. Kessler Foundation is particularly interested in this project because consumer confidence in credit unions continues to increase, leading to growth in the credit union sector. By having people with disabilities employed in credit unions, some of the most influential businesses will recognize their strengths and abilities."

Based on employer and intern feedback from the N.J. effort, the project includes these elements: a comprehensive assessment tool to judge performance; Credit Union Ready Employee Training and certification so employees understand how to work with individuals with disabilities; a partnership with the Credit Union Association of New York (CUANY) to screen and match applicants with available positions; collaboration with VR vendors, training and technical assistance to credit unions; and ongoing training to build CUANY's capacity for sustainability.

In the two-year grant cycle, BEST Employees N.Y. plans to train and place 72 individuals with disabilities. The project will provide opportunities for replication nationwide. BEST Employees N.Y. is a collaborative effort of NDI, Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, CUANY, New York Office of Adult Career and Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation, State Department of Labor's Disability Employment Initiative and Syracuse University's Burton Blatt Institute.

Signature Employment Grants are Kessler Foundation's largest grants. Awarded for a period of two years, Signature Grants range from $250,000 to $500,000. This is the second year that the Signature Grants were available to organizations nationwide.

About Kessler Foundation
Kessler Foundation, the largest nonprofit organization in the field of disability research and employment, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition and mobility for people with multiple sclerosis, brain injury, stroke, spinal cord injury, and other disabling conditions. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for job training and employment for people with disabilities. Since 2005, Kessler Foundation has invested more than $27 million in organizations and programs to increase the participation of people with disabilities, including veterans, in the workforce through strategic funding and philanthropic leadership. For more information, visit kesslerfoundation.org. Follow Kessler Foundation on Facebook, Twitter (@KesslerFound) and YouTube.

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Contacts:
Lauren Scrivo
973.324.8384
LScrivo@KesslerFoundation.org

Carolann Murphy, PA
973.324.8382
CMurphy@KesslerFoundation.org

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