A total of $75,000 went to 15 Nassau County-based nonprofits that support people with disabilities. The funding was announced Monday at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, at an event hosted by Rockville Centre-based Disability Opportunity Fund, or DOF.
The funding is through three local organizations. It includes DOF, a community development financial institution that provides services to business sectors and nonprofits that support the disability community, as well as Nassau County and Cedarhurst-based Maidenbaum Property Tax.
At Monday’s event, DOF also gave $250,000 to nonprofits from across the country and that support people with disabilities. That funding was distributed as part of a Shark Tank-style pitch competition.
“We are proud to be a part of this initiative by providing much-needed financial support to organizations that serve and, in some cases, employ people with disabilities,” Disability Opportunity Fund President and CEO Charles Hammerman said in a news release about the funding.
“These organizations represent a diverse range of services and support for individuals with disabilities, and we are excited to contribute to their missions,” Hammerman added.
The event comes at a time when 61 million, or one in four, Americans have a disability that impacts major life activities, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At the same time, the disability community’s disposable income represents $1.2 trillion, according to the International Labour Organization, an arm of the United Nations. For organizations, such as those presenting pitches in the Shark Tank-style competition on Monday, there is an opportunity to focus on such areas as accessibility and inclusion and tap into a niche market that experts say is often overlooked.
The DOF event provided an opportunity to highlight the needs for accessibility and the importance of public policy in helping people with disabilities who have historically been underrepresented.
Each of the 15 organizations at this week’s event received a $5,000 grant as part of the Disability Opportunity Fund’s commitment to support their work. The grants were also awarded during National Disability Employment Awareness Month, taking the opportunity to recognize the contributions of workers with disabilities.
The grants were made possible in part through the sponsorship of Maidenbaum Property Tax Reduction Group’s “From the Community, For the Community” program. “We are in this community and want to be supportive of this community,” Shalom Maidenbaum, the founder of Maidenbaum, said in a written statement.
“This was an obvious donation that will be incredibly beneficial to the disabled community,” he added.
“This is the type of program that gives people just the kind of help they need,” Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said in the release.
“We are thrilled to be able to provide these nonprofit organizations with the financial resources they need to continue to make a difference in the lives of people in the disability community here in Long Island,” he added.
Those that received grants include Community Mainstreaming, Family and Children’s Association, JCC Gural, Karen’s Hope, Kulanu, LaFuerza CDC, LI Sled Hockey, Lisa Beth Gerstman Foundation, Little Village School, Mill Neck Foundation, Nicholas Center for Autism, North Shore Autism Circle, RVC Backyard Players and Friends, Sunrise Day Camp and YAI.
“These grants give us the opportunity to help the disabled community,” Stella Spanakos, cofounder of the Nicholas Center for Autism, said in a written statement.
The center provides daily support to more than 140 individuals with Autism each day. The organization supports individuals to learn critical life skills, improve social and communication abilities, gain meaningful vocational training, and engage in community projects. It also has a focus on inclusive employment, and has a supported employment program.
“We are very grateful, to celebrate with all of these non-for-profits and we’re very proud of the work that’s being done by the county executive, Charlie Hammerman and Maidenbaum,” Spanakos said.
Also attending the conference were local leaders that included Kevin O’Connor, the Dime Bank CEO, and John Flanagan, the former state senate majority and minority leader who is now Northwell Health’s senior vice president of government affairs. Both spoke of the importance of advocating for those with disabilities as well as serving entire communities.
During the Shark Tank-style competition, eight organizations that are determined to make a difference in the lives of those with disabilities, went on to vie for the $250,000 in prize money. Selected by DOF, the eight organizations presented their pitch in front of guest judges including those who helped evaluate each pitch and determine a winner. The grand prize of the competition was awarded to Delaware-based Valence Vibrations. Other participating organizations receiving smaller donations in the pitch competition include Guiding Technologies, Wave Therapeutics, Exokinetics, JoyDew, JelikaLite, ASD.ai (Rootines) and RightHear.