Kessler Foundation Impact Report Showcases Faith-Based Initiative of Vanderbilt University Kennedy Center


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

East Hanover, NJ – July 5, 2018 – Kessler Foundation has issued an Impact Report highlighting a successful initiative of Vanderbilt University Kennedy CenterPutting Faith to Work (PFTW)The Report is one of a series of five reports evaluating the outcomes of major grants supported under Kessler Foundation’s Signature Employment Grant (SEG) program from 2009-2015. Kessler Foundation’s two-year, Signature Grant funding supports selected programs across the US that create or expand job training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

In 2013, Kessler Foundation awarded a $449,961 Signature Grant to Vanderbilt University Kennedy Center to expand PFTW—an initiative to equip faith communities with tools to support employment for their members with disabilities. Through this project, faith communities build their capacity to address the employment needs of members with disabilities, source job opportunities, and provide individualized support. Congregations in Minn., TX, Ky., and Tenn. receive accessible and customized training and the tools and technical assistance necessary to increase services provided for their members.

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. The independent examination of projects enables better judgment of program success, provides accountability, and is critical to smarter investing for future projects. This Impact Report summarizes the Heldrich Center’s key findings of the PFTW program evaluation.

The Foundation summarized these evaluations in a recent white paper, Employing People with Disabilities: Lessons Learned from the Kessler Foundation Signature Employment Grants. “Through the Putting Faith to Work initiative, 27 congregations across four States delivered workforce development services and customized employment assistance to people with disabilities,” said Elaine E. Katz, MS, CCC-SLP, senior vice president of communications and grants at Kessler Foundation. “Using a person-centered approach, the congregational teams assessed each individual’s strengths and interests, and identified the best job match. In our new white paper, we note person-centered planning as one of the five key success factors in employment programs for people with disabilities.”

The series of Impact Reports illustrates the five identified elements, namely, a focus on changing attitudes about people with disabilities and their ability to work, a person-centered approach to employment, technological platforms or model documentation, strong community partnerships, and wraparound services. By identifying successful strategies for developing and implementing employment programs, these reports contribute to the growing pool of knowledge on promising practices and approaches that promote a truly inclusive workforce.


To learn more about the Kessler Foundation Impact Report series, 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 Signature Employment Grants

Since 2009, Kessler Foundation has awarded more than $14.7 million dollars in Signature Employment Grants—the Foundation's largest grants—to launch pilot initiatives, demonstration projects, or social ventures that lead to the generation of new ideas to increase employment among people with disabilities. Signature Grants range from $200,000 to $500,000 over a two-year period. To learn more, or to apply, please visit our website.


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;