Kessler Foundation Issues Five Impact Reports Showcasing Signature Grantee Initiatives

Each Impact Report highlights key findings from an independent evaluation by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University

East Hanover, NJ – July 2, 2018 – Kessler Foundation has issued five Impact Reports highlighting successful outcomes of major grants supported under its Signature Employment Grant (SEG) program. Since 2004, Kessler Foundation has provided more than $41.5 million to support initiatives that create or expand opportunities for people with disabilities.

In 2009, Kessler Foundation began partnering with the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University to conduct independent program evaluations of its SEG projects. Independent examination of projects enables better judgment of program success, provides accountability, and is critical to smarter investing for future projects. Each Impact Report summarizes the key findings of the Heldrich Center’s individual program evaluations.

The Foundation also summarized these evaluations in a recent white paper, Employing People with Disabilities: Lessons Learned from the Kessler Foundation Signature Employment Grants. “By working with the Heldrich Center to measure grant outcomes, we're able to get a closer look at strategies that work and can better determine performance measurements for more efficient investing in future projects,” remarked Elaine E. Katz, MS. CCC-SLP, senior vice president of communications and grants at Kessler Foundation. “The five newly released reports provide an illustrative look at how Foundation grantees contribute to our understanding of best practices in disability employment. Organizations that create innovative and sustainable approaches to improving employment opportunities for people with disabilities increase their likelihood of program success.”

The reports detail demonstrative examples of the contributions of these elements to the success of selected Signature grantees, namely, a focus on changing attitudes about people with disabilities and their ability to work, a person-centered approach, technological platforms or model documentation, strong community partnerships, and wraparound services. The markers for success were increased employment of people with disabilities, employer and program participant satisfaction, and model replicability.


Kessler Foundation Signature Employment Grant Program

Since 2004, Kessler Foundation has awarded more than $14.7 million dollars in Signature Employment Grants—the Foundation's largest grants. Signature Grants range from $200,000 to $500,000 over a two-year period. These awards support pilot initiatives, demonstration projects, or social ventures that lead to the generation of new ideas to increase employment among people with disabilities. Here’s a summary the Signature Employment Grants highlighted in the five Impact Reports:


The Easter Seals’–Serving DC|MD|VA–Veteran Staffing Network enables all veterans, wounded warriors, reservists, National Guardsmen and their spouses to pursue their self-defined career paths and obtain meaningful employment. Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago’s Realizing Education and Advancement for Disabled Youth (READY) Program is a transition project for high school students with disabilities aimed to improve students’ economic independence after graduation. An initiative of Vanderbilt University Kennedy Center, titled Putting Faith to Work, equips faith communities with tools to support employment for their members with disabilities. Hudson Community Enterprises’ program, Operation Hope, is a viable social enterprise business aimed to employ people with disabilities through recruitment, skills training, and on-going support services. The Bridging the Gap from College to Careers program–an initiative of San Diego State University Research Foundation–offers mentorships, internships, work experience, and job development aid to college students with disabilities in their final years of undergraduate studies.

To learn more about Kessler Foundation’s Impact Reports, please visit our website.

About the Heldrich Center

The John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University is a university-based organization devoted to transforming the workforce development system at the local, state, and federal levels. The center, located within the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, provides an independent source of analysis for reform and innovation in policy-making and employs cutting-edge research and evaluation methods to identify best practices in workforce development, education, and employment policy. It is also engaged in significant partnerships with the private sector, workforce organizations, and educational institutions to design effective education and training programs. It is also deeply committed to assisting job seekers and workers attain the information, education, and skills training they need to move up the economic ladder.

As captured in its slogan, “Solutions at Work,” the Heldrich Center is guided by a commitment to translate the strongest research and analysis into practices and programs that companies, community-based organizations, philanthropy, and government officials can use to strengthen their workforce and workforce readiness programs, create jobs, and remain competitive. The center’s work strives to build an efficient labor market that matches workers’ skills and knowledge with the evolving demands of employers. 

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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 employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

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Carolann Murphy, PA; 973-324-8382;

Laura Viglione, MS; 973-323-3675;