Price for Freedom – Grants Turn Coffee Houses into Healing Places for Military Veterans

As owner of the coffee house on Milwaukee’s north side, Bob Curry watches his customers sit by themselves for weeks, quietly observing the environment around them, before they ever so-slowly begin to mingle with others.

Most of the conversations start with "Did you serve?" But, Curry refuses to make judgments about his customers, whom, like him, are USA veterans who long for a safe, comfortable, drug-and-alcohol free environment to heal and recover. “Dryhootch,” a nonprofit which Curry established a decade ago, is that therapeutic sanctuary.

Many of the vets that visit Dryhootch – “Hootch” is military jargon for a safe place to sleep during combat – suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, a psychiatric condition that follows a traumatic event. In these cases, military combat.

Curry knows something about PTSD. The 66-year-old former pilot who flew more than 250 missions during the Vietnam War is one of 653,400 USA veterans treated for PTSD each year by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Given the preponderance of the disorder — more than 14 million Americans will be diagnosed at some point in their lives with PTSD, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.


Curry recognizes the urgent need for more healing places.


Funded by donations and grants from the government, foundations, corporations and individuals, Curry opened a second Dryhootch in Milwaukee, near the VA Medical Center. He plans to open another at a site in Madison, Wisc., and one is in the works for Atlanta. Each will be dedicated to offering a safe, healing place where vets can engage in peer-to-peer counseling to deal with issues of physical and mental health.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of, said healing the emotional or physical trauma of military service and reintegrating veterans into society is a priority that requires money. The good news is that GrantWatch provides information on these funding opportunities for nonprofits to access grants to provide services and for individual military veterans and their families including health, education, employment and housing.

Grants to USA and Puerto Rico Nonprofits to Construct or Rehabilitate Housing for Veterans

Grants to USA Veterans to Recognize Service in the Nation's Armed Forces

Intensive Business Course and Mentoring Program for USA Veterans with Disabilities

Curry continues to work with vets daily and with community advocates as well including the Wisconsin Partnership Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, which provided him with a $50,000 grant to fund refinements of a prototype smartphone app built to connect vets statewide and beyond to Dryhootch healing places in their communities.

When he returned from Vietnam, Curry, like many other vets, tried to “stuff” the memory of his service and the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder the war had caused. But, those symptoms – flashbacks and nightmares — came roaring back once the Gulf War started in 1990. As a result, he gained weight, drank excessively and, in 2011, reached rock bottom when he was charged with homicide by intoxication.

Even though he was eventually cleared of the charge by reason of insanity due to a rampant case of PTSD, Curry continued to flounder in and out of state mental institutions until fellow Vietnam veterans helped him confront his PTSD. Not only did Curry stand up to his exaggerated arousal and flashbacks, he created a source of assistance for fellow veterans to cope with their military experiences over a cup of coffee.

Nonprofits and interest groups that serve the unaddressed needs of military servicemen and are frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants for veterans can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at Sign-up here to receive the weekly GrantWatch newsletter which features geographic-specific funding opportunities.

About the Author: Staff Writer for GrantWatch


Urban Agriculture Grants Plant Seeds for Access to Healthy Foods, Education, Job Training

While growing up in a public housing complex in the Bronx, Tyrone Robinson didn’t find many options to eat healthy. But, when he started working at a New York City nonprofit, the 23-year-old’s choices began to grow.

Robinson is one of dozens of New Yorkers who have joined the ranks of urban farmers, thanks to Green City Force, a nonprofit organization based in Bedford-Stuyvesant that creates a fertile ground for healthy foods and job training in New York City Housing Authority complexes.

Since 2013, Green City Force has been cultivating not only radishes and beets, but people and hope as well at farms established at NYCHA sites in Brooklyn, East Harlem, and the Bronx. In turn, GCF administers Urban Farm Corps, an AmeriCorps program that teaches three dozen NYCHA residents between the ages of 18-24 each year to manage crops and maintain a farm.

The focus of the farms is on fruits and vegetables, but advocates believe the program, funded in part by a grant from the Citi Foundation, provides a vital link to nutritious food, education and jobs to New Yorkers. A second round of funding from a $500,000 grant announced last month will provide Green City Force with the flexibility to pilot new programs that create access to fresh, healthy foods in neighborhoods where the only dinner options might be Chinese food or McDonald's.

Agriculture in urban areas has gained interest among residents and policymakers across the nation. The federal government, which believes urban agriculture can play an important role in supporting local food systems, has established grants that help inner-city farmers overcome a unique set of challenges including the high cost of land and access to capital resources.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of, said local governments and nonprofits are also developing programs that foster both city and suburban agriculture in vacant lots and parks, roof-top balconies and roadside open space. Many of these funding opportunities can be identified on GrantWatch.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology reports more than 300 urban and suburban farms have sprouted up across the United States, about a third of which are in the Northeast. New York City is home to nearly 2,000 gardens as well as farms and rooftop growing spaces, many of which are overseen by nonprofits eligible for state Department of Agriculture and Markets grants. These opportunities aim to develop and expand urban farms and community gardens. Others requests for proposals target Brooklyn community-based organizations that can create job training programs in support of the green economy in the borough.

These grants underscore a growing movement to look beyond rural agriculture and support local food systems not only in cities like New York, but in Holyoke, where lawmakers are teaming up with a nonprofit group to create an urban farming program in the western Massachusetts municipality. The plans call for the state to invest $200,000 in two container farms at Holyoke Community College. Under the oversight of Nuestras Raices, interns from the school along with neighborhood apprentices will be taught hydroponic food production including how to grow leafy greens that will be sold to the college and local restaurants.

After his tenure at Green City Force, Paul Philpott established his own hydronic farm inside a shipping container tucked in a parking lot across from the Marcy Houses in Bedford-Stuyvesant. He tends to a bounty of radishes, kale, lettuce, beets, all lit by bright pink lights. The futuristic farm he manages yields about 35 pounds of produce each week, about half of which is sold to restaurants, caterers and chefs through his business, Gateway Greens.

Nonprofits as well as entrepreneurial farmers like Paul Philpott looking to cultivate their urban agriculture systems can streamline their search for capital by turning to, which lists easy to read and simple to comprehend grant applications. Sign-up here to receive the weekly GrantWatch newsletter which features geographic-specific funding opportunities.


About the Author: Staff Writer at GrantWatch

Teacher Appreciation Month – Grants Improve Classroom Learning Experiences

When a few students begin to chatter during a silent reading period, Ben Domonkos effortlessly weaves lessons on manners into the assignment. In a moment, he tells his fourth-grade class, pointing to the miniature scoreboard in the corner of the classroom, he will release them to write.

Teaching is anything, but a chore for Domonkos – or “Mr. D” as he is affectionately known – who was named 2018 Teacher of the Year by the South Bend Community School Corp. The fourth-grade teacher at Tarkington Traditional School, received a $1,000 grant that he can apply toward professional development, as well as a plaque and golden apple.

Like many instructors who will be honored during Teacher Appreciation Month in May, Domonkos is considered “an amazing educator,” one the Indiana school “is fortunate to have.”

At a time when many schools across the nation are confronting budget squeezes that prohibit advanced learning techniques, Domonkos regularly writes and submits grant applications to external funding sources for new classroom tools or equipment.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of, said forward-thinking teachers like Domonkos are always looking for innovative methods to expand instruction and engage students. But, these efforts typically require money from sources other than the school district. To help streamline the search process, GrantWatch lists the most up-to-date funding opportunities that can help teachers reduce the expenses involved with implementing their strategies.

Grants for Teachers: 

Grants for public school teachers for the improvement of education, grants for classroom supplies, innovative teaching strategies and professional development teaching opportunities. Find classroom grants for school funding, grants to public school educators to enhance teaching, provide support for STEM professionals and for the pursuit of careers in teaching.

GrantWatch provides access to funds from a variety of sources including federal and local governments, private corporations, nonprofits and foundations. Thousands of dollars are available to fund professional development, classroom enrichment, humanities and STEM, school supplies, field trips and anything else that helps teachers to do their jobs.

For John Forish, a graphic arts instructor, and Beth Lancaster, head of the science department, starting a fishing club would be a path for their students at Naugatuck High School in Connecticut to get outside and learn about conservation. A grant from the Naugatuck Education Foundation provided $4,083 that not only covered the cost of fishing poles, but enough money to purchase water quality monitoring equipment and an underwater drone for club members to both find fish and study their movements.

The Naugatuck Education Foundation is a nonprofit organization that raises money to provide grants for education programs in borough public schools that go above and beyond what is funded through the annual budget. Grants are awarded through an application process.

Hikind, a former teacher who raised more than $11 million for a New York City school district, said those educators who can creatively express the need for a sustainable project that benefits the most students over the longest time will be the most successful. The first step, she said, is to create a detailed need. Once a project is defined, GrantWatch can be accessed to identify a funding source.

The first grant Libby wrote in 1984 was to Tandy Corporation to prove that their Model 100 could be used in the educational community. The TRS-80 Model 100 is a portable computer introduced in 1983. It is one of the first notebook-style computers, featuring a keyboard and liquid crystal display, in a battery-powered package roughly the size and shape of a notepad or large book. The $15,000 grant outfitted her classroom and Hikind was able to to teach written communication skills through word processing.

Domonkos, who enjoys mixing new technology with pencils and notebooks into his lesson plan, encourages other faculty members to apply for educational grants for their classrooms or schools. A $20,000 grant that he applied for and received has provided Chromebook mini-laptops and training for his classroom. An earlier grant allowed him to trade out traditional desks for a variety of tables with whiteboard surfaces.

As a result, his students get to choose where they want to learn and how they want to collaborate; sitting at tables or with peers; writing on the table surface with an erasable marker, standing up while conducting research through Chromebook, or sitting crossed-legged on the floor reading.

Educators, school administrators, parent teacher organizations and nonprofits determined to reduce the costs associated with improving classroom learning experiences can streamline their search for external funds by turning to, which lists easy to read and simple to comprehend grant applications. Sign-up here to receive the weekly GrantWatch newsletter which features geographic-specific funding opportunities.

About the Author: Staff Writer at GrantWatch

White House Initiative Opens Doors to Federal Funds for Faith-Based Organizations

On National Prayer Day, the White House has introduced a new initiative that may put religious groups on equal footing with other nonprofits when competing for federal grants.

In a Rose Garden ceremony before 200 religious leaders, President Trump signed the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative, an executive order designed to provide faith-based organizations with a stronger voice within the federal government.

The new order follows previous attempts by the Bush and Obama administrations to create similarly named offices to foster partnerships between the government and religious organizations.

President George W. Bush first presented the idea, in 2001, to establish an office that would serve as a watchdog against government overreach on religious liberty issues. However, the moved sparked debate about whether funding could breach a separation of church and state. Under the Bush administration, faith-based nonprofit organizations received federal grants totaling more than $10.6 billion.

"We take this step because we know that in solving the many, many problems and our great challenges, faith is more powerful than government and nothing is more powerful than God," said Trump. 

Faith-based and other community organizations can find federal grants to fund programs that work with at-risk children, the homeless, women and substance abuse on

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch, said she expects more opportunities for faith-based groups as a result of the president’s announcement.

“So many faith-based nonprofits are the troops-on-the-ground that provide much-needed services in communities,” she said. “They are the trusted entities that people turn to first. Sadly, these nonprofit groups have been asked to provide more, but with less resources to access funding.”

Faith-based religious groups and nonprofits frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for federal grants to support their social services and programs can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at GrantWatch.comSign-up here to can receive the weekly GrantWatch newsletter which features geographic-specific funding opportunities.

About the Author: Staff Writer at GrantWatch


Youth Be Served – Local Youth Grant Helps Milford Community Center Renovate Dance Studio

In an unfinished part of the basement that competes for space among batting cages, a boxing gym and weight room, Jennifer Ward envisions hardwood floors, mirrors, ballet barres and kids grooving to the sound of hip-hop.

The director of the Milford Youth Center hopes a recent $54,706 grant will help the facility and its programs step into the 21st century and continue to grow. The money from the Greater Milford Community Health Network will transform 9,000 square-feet into a dance studio and movie room and put a stop to air quality concerns that affected mats and materials already in the space.

Based on state requirements, the Youth Center was eligible for capital improvement programs worthy of assistance from the local health network. More than 150 children have taken advantage of the nonprofit center’s hip-hop, yoga and cross-fit exercise classes in the last couple of years, through a partnership with the Milford Regional Medical Center.

A total of eight nonprofits were awarded a 2018 grant through the Greater Milford Community Health Network:

We would like to congratulate the following grant awardees:

  1. United Way of Tri-County
  2. Family Continuity Inc. 
  3. Edward M. Community Health Center
  4. Hockomock Area YMCA (Level 1)
  5. Hockomock Area YMCA (Level 2)
  6. Milford Youth Center
  7. Medway Public Schools
  8. Franklin Food Pantry

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of, said nonprofits rely on grants to provide recreational opportunities for K-12 youth. From funds for facility construction and the purchase of recreational equipment to hiring staff and implementing programs, eligible nonprofits can find these grants on GrantWatch.

Grants are currently available from several sources to benefit nonprofit youth activities including the State of Washington which is offering funds to help defray capital costs associated with renovating and acquiring recreational facilities for children.

In the past two decades, federal, state, and local policy makers and foundations have dramatically increased funding to promote and sustain nonprofit youth activities held during after-school hours. Funding is often patched together from multiple sources.

When local business and volunteers rallied financial support to address player safety concerns in the Smyrna-Clayton Little Lass program, Major League Baseball — under the Baseball Tomorrow Fund — chipped in a $39,000 grant to help fund the installation of lights and renovations to playing surfaces, dugouts, fencing and bleachers as well as the purchase of an infield groomer to support on-going maintenance. 

Youth advocates believe participation in sports not only plays an important role in exercise, but studies have shown that children who are involved in recreational activities are better equipped to excel both academically and socially and less likely to drop out of school and become involved with drugs and alcohol.

About 130 children continue to use the Milford Youth Center daily. In addition to renovating the dance studio, youth center officials hope to create a multi-purpose space next door. These ongoing improvement efforts follow renovations a year ago to the gym and upgrades that made the 100-plus-year-old building accessible to the handicapped.

Nonprofits frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for funding sources for youth grants and sports and recreation grants for activities held during after-school hours can identify grant opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at Sign-up here to  receive the weekly GrantWatch newsletter which features geographic-specific funding opportunities.

About the Author: Staff Writer for GrantWatch


Federal Budget Bill Boosts Spending for Community Development Block Grants to Nonprofits White House Food Pantry

Outside the soup kitchen, a big white storage container houses cereal boxes, bags of rice and canned vegetables among other nonperishables food items. The white container food pantry is affectionately called “The White House,” at GWIM , Greater Waterbury Interfaith Ministries, is a lifeline to families in need.

GWIM uses money from CDBG, Community Development Block Grants to help fund the nonprofit’s food pantry and soup kitchen. Barbara Ann Dublin, the director, said GWIM received $51,062 last year from the City of Waterbury’s CDBG allotment, about one-fifth of her operating costs.

CDBGs, one of the longest-running programs of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, funds local community development activities, such as affordable housing, anti-poverty programs, and infrastructure development. When the massive omnibus spending bill was passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump last month, CDBG received an 8 percent funding increase through September 2020.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of, said CDBG funds and other grants for municipalities are awarded to regional and small local governments with only general provisions for which way the money is to be spent. She said many of these funding opportunities are used to help towns and cities ensure decent affordable housing, provide services to people in the most vulnerable communities, provide food pantries and to create jobs through the expansion and retention of businesses and other forms of economic development such as, tourism and education.

From Vermont and New Hampshire to Mississippi and Texas, CDBGs propose funding a wide range of programs on — from natural disaster relief and restoration to feasibility studies and economic development, public services and housing.

In February, more than $1.5 million in federal CDBG money was awarded to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Those awards, in contrast to categorical grants, CDBGs were given for rather broad purposes with few strings attached. Trump had first proposed cutting the entire CDBG program next fiscal year. But, instead, the $1.3 trillion budget bill boosted the block grant program’s funding by $305 million.

HUD figures show the department distributed $3.2 billion in CDBG funding nationwide in fiscal year 2017. Some of that money helped to pay for a new combination oven, which is enabling kitchen staff at the Pocatello Senior Activity Center, in Idaho, to prepare nutritious meals more efficiently to seniors who are unable physically or financially to provide for themselves.

For nonprofits with limited budgets, expanding services to better help the community is always on the radar.  Finding the right funding resources can be challenging. A $50,000 grant of CDBG funds to the Literacy Council of Grand Island was used for new programs to assist students with English language instruction. Nearly 200 students attended group classes offered each week during the council’s funding period.

The Nebraska nonprofit also used the money to create an alternate learning space called Community Connection Center and to get new equipment for computer-based study in a Language and Learning Lab. Students at the Literacy Council are from more than 30 countries, a majority of whom are learning English as a second language; while another program helps English speakers learn Spanish.

Meanwhile, staff at Greater Waterbury Interfaith Ministries will be able to fully stock the "White House" at the end of every month, because it can count on continued CDBG funds.

“Without CDBG, I don’t know what we would do,” said Dublin.

Colleen Letizia, who regularly picks through the pantry for food, knows going hungry is one less thing she needs to worry about.

Nonprofits, municipalities, public and private foundations, small businesses and entrepreneurs frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for food pantry and economic development grants can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at Sign-up here to can receive the weekly GrantWatch newsletter which features geographic-specific funding opportunities.


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Animal Welfare Grants Offer Domestic Violence Victims Shelter Options for their Pets

Inside the fenced-in yard built for dogs, Ivy was having her day, happy and safe in her temporary home while her owner was getting the help she needed in a nearby building.

Ivy was running around the kennel built on the secured property owned by CASA, a domestic violence shelter for women in the Tampa Bay area. The newly added kennel, thanks, in part, to a grant from RedRover Safe Housing program, gives domestic violence victims peace of mind knowing that they can leave an abusive situation and bring their pets with them.

Without the kennel at Community Action Stops Abuse, Ivy might have been left to fend for herself in a dangerous environment. More than 70 percent of pet owning women who enter domestic violence shelters claim their batterer had injured, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or psychological control. And as many as 65 percent of domestic violence victims are unable to escape their abusers because they fear what will happen to their pets when they leave.

RedRover, a national nonprofit organization based in Sacramento, has distributed more than $40,000 in grants to eight domestic violence shelters throughout the United States. The grants help to pay for building materials and supplies used to create animal-friendly lodging for the pets of victims fleeing abuse. Red Rover funding opportunities are posted on

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch, said the search engine lists additional funding opportunities for a broad range of animal welfare programs, projects, and activities for both domestic pets and wildlife. GrantWatch also displays numerous grants for domestic abuse nonprofits.

Only a fraction of the 2,500 domestic violence shelters in the United States have facilities for housing animals onsite, according to Sheltering Animals and Families Together (SAF-T), a national initiative that guides family violence shelters on how to welcome families with pets.






Gigi Tsontos, chief executive officer at the Women’s Transitional Living Center, said the domestic violence shelter in Orange County California often receives calls from families that would not leave abusive environments without their pets.

Those victims will now have options, thanks to a $6,000 Safe Housing grant from RedRover that will help WLTC complete the transition to a pet-friendly facility. Funds from the grant helped construct an insulated outdoor structure that is capable of housing larger pets at the shelter.

Tsontos, an owner of three dogs, said prior to the grant, abuse victims housed at WTLC shared their living spaces with their pets. Now, counselors at the nonprofit ask each caller if there is a pet in the household. One of those callers had been wanting to escape his abuser for at least a year, but he couldn't find a shelter that would take his dog. Today, the dog and owner are safe and living together in an apartment provided by WTLC.

Nonprofits, public and private foundations, small businesses and entrepreneurs frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for animal welfare grants and grants for domestic abuse nonprofits can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at Sign-up here to receive the weekly GrantWatch newsletter which features geographic-specific funding opportunities.


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Bet The Farm On It:Kars4Kids Grant Reaps Benefits for At-Risk Youth in Nonprofit Mentoring Program

With each visit she makes to the farm, a nonprofit for rescued animals, the sweet smell of horses and hay hits close to home. Forget Me Not Farm is like family to Sabrina Schmidt, who started visiting the outpost for the Sonoma Humane Society regularly some 20 years ago while she bounced around in the foster care system.

During her trips, Schmidt forged an affinity for the animals, many once abused and neglected like herself, that helped her overcome the challenges of finding housing and a job later in life.

Carol Rathman, founder and director of Forget Me Not Farm, credits the nonprofit’s mentoring program for reversing Schmidt’s fortunes as much as she does the therapeutic connections that visitors establish with resident animals. Mentoring at the farm is supported, in part, by a grant from Kars4Kids, the national car donation program whose proceeds benefit educational initiatives for children.

Worthy organizations interested in furthering the welfare and education of children and young adults outside of a school setting can find can find the Kars4Kids Small Grants listed at

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch, said foundations are particularly interested in funding mentoring programs and projects that support education, children, and youth at-risk.

By providing grants to libraries, mentoring, tutoring, afterschool programs and the like, Kars4Kids is enriching the education of future citizens and leaders of the community, said Wendy Kirwan, a spokesperson for the organization.

“There are so many worthy organizations out there,” said Kirwan. “We want to help. We don’t want to be limited even by the scope of our own extensive programming.”

Successful small grant applicants must demonstrate a mission well-aligned with Kars4Kids vision of offering children emotional, social, and spiritual development and support. Kars4Kids is a nationally recognized Jewish 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that gives back to the community through a variety of educational, youth development, family outreach and faith-based programs.

Now 30, Schmidt, is employed at an independent senior living facility near her apartment where she helps the residents with their pets, sometimes walking their dogs, cleaning litter boxes or feeding their animals. And while the trauma from moving from foster care to group home and back has subsided somewhat, the farm remains a source of kindness, compassion, empathy and trust for her.

In each visit back to the farm, Schmidt greets the animals with the familiarity of family. She says, that she her affinity for the farm is such that she would sleep there, if she could. Thanks to the mentoring program, she does not have to.

Nonprofits, public and private foundations, small businesses and entrepreneurs frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants for libraries, mentoring, tutoring, afterschool programs can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at 

Sign-up here to receive the weekly GrantWatch newsletter which features geographic-specific funding opportunities.

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Grants to Lower Recidivism – Inmate Started Nonprofit to Break Down Prison Walls

He sent letters – hundreds of them – to churches, to charities, to businesses, asking each to help. The few that did respond declined. Dirk Van Velzen, who was serving time in prison for stealing, learned a hard lesson that crime would not pay for his college tuition.

Now, the convict who once landed on “America’s Most Wanted” is applying that knowledge to help other inmates who are out of options like he was. While he was still in prison, Van Velzen started a nonprofit, which continues to assist inmates like he was get an education.

Van Velzen realizes he was fortunate. While in prison, he was able to receive a bachelor’s degree in organizational science after his father agreed to pay for him to enroll in a distance learning program offered through Penn State University.

The idea for a startup came next. And Van Velzen started writing again. This time, the money poured in — $60,000 in grants between 2000 and 2009. His Seattle startup, which he dubbed the Prison Scholar Fund, has since helped 110 inmates in 22 states pay for college, vocational and technical courses.

In 2006, the Prison Scholar Fund received IRS 501(c) 3 status. Van Velzen was released in 2015. He believes tearing down walls that lead to educational programs for inmates can keep them from returning to crime or prison and supply Puget Sound-area businesses with a skilled workforce.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of, said nonprofits across the nation are devising strategies to reduce the number of prisoners who commit crimes again after they are released. From Tennessee to Texas, grants that cater to reducing recidivism, particularly for at-risk youth, can be identified on GrantWatch, a search engine that lists funding opportunities for nonprofits, entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Advocates for inmates believe lowering recidivism is in the public interest. The Rand Corp. found that 43 percent of inmates who participate in educational programs while in prison are less likely to return within three years. Van Velzen said that just two of the 74 Prison Scholar Fund recipients have been arrested again following their release. That's about 3 percent, compared to the 68 percent national recidivism rate.

Despite the merits of educational programs like the Prison Scholar Fund to reduce recidivism, lawmakers are still hesitant to allocate public dollars to increase education for inmates. In 1994, Congress passed legislation that made inmates ineligible to receive federal Pell grants, making the need-based option for low-income students out of the reach of Van Velzen when he first began his search for tuition assistance almost two decades ago.

Van Velzen is now a partner at Seattle-based Social Venture Partners and a Stanford University executive program graduate. He works with MOD Pizza and other Puget Sound-area companies to help inmates find work once they’re released. Meanwhile, the Prison Scholar Fund is collaborating with the University of Washington to increase access for prisoners to the school’s online social sciences degree program.

In December 2017, Van Velzen received a grant from Grammy-award winner John Legend, one of eight presented to entrepreneurs across the nation who have founded mission-driven nonprofits or for-profits focused on criminal justice reform.

Nonprofits, public and private foundations, small businesses and entrepreneurs frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants can identify recidivism grants and funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at Sign-up here to receive the weekly GrantWatch newsletter which features geographic-specific funding opportunities.

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Autism Diagnoses, Research and Stiff Competition for Grant Dollars at U.S. Universities and Colleges

Up until he was two years old, Katharine Kollins had no idea her first-born child Grayson had autism. Then she got the diagnosis and her world came crashing.

Now, researchers at Columbia University say their review of new guidelines for defining autism spectrum disorders issued last year by the American Psychiatric Association may leave thousands of children in the United States without the required diagnosis to qualify for medical benefits and social services.

Kristine M. Kulage, director of research and scholarly development at the School of Nursing, said her team found a 31 percent decrease in autism spectrum diagnoses using the new version of the Diagnostic and Standard Manual of Mental Disorders, compared to the number of cases that would have been revealed under the previous guidelines.

Experts in both the United States and Canada rely on DSM, considered the “bible of psychiatry,” to diagnose and classify mental disorders. Giving children with autism the support they need sooner helps them to grow and increases the likelihood they will thrive. Kulage said the Columbia study raises a concern that some of the most vulnerable children may lose a diagnosis and the valued medical treatment that goes with it as well.

Research on college campuses like Columbia University, leads to greater discovery and better education including – in this case — early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. But, colleges have limited budgets, as well as competing goals and needs. And research costs money.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of, said a major role of a researcher at a college or university is devoted to applying for grant money from private companies and organizations, or local and national governments.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) is a government agency that distributes about $32 billion a year toward medical and public health research. Hikind said while lists funding opportunities under the NIH Research Project Grant Program, GrantWatch also lists many similar research funding opportunities from foundations and corporations. 

Kulage said securing funds for university research is more difficult than ever. In the 20 years she has been working in university research, the grant application process has become longer and more complex.

Time, compliance regulations and the new systems through which to submit grant proposals are common hindrances. Because the application, process for grant money is highly competitive, Hikind encourages researchers who do not have the human resources or the skills to create a proposal to identify a writer at for assistance.

Kulage said colleges and universities must do more to help their researchers secure grant money. Columbia’s nursing school invested $127,000 to employ administrators to complete grant applications and free researchers to spend more time on their work. Administrators and other researchers met with the grant writers to review the applications. The team was expected to defend its proposal.

In a five-year period following implementation of the support system, Kulage said proposals that went through review were almost twice as likely to be accepted. That $127,000 investment led to Columbia's School of Nursing earning $3 million in outside funding.

Nonprofits, universities, public and private foundations, small businesses and entrepreneurs frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants for research can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at Sign-up here to receive the weekly GrantWatch newsletter which features geographic-specific funding opportunities.

About the Author: Staff Writer for