Faith-Based Organizations, or FBOs

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Sometimes, coping with a child’s Cerebral Palsy requires having a little faith. Organizations that span several faiths have implemented programs that help parents meet housing, health care, economic, and spiritual needs.

What are faith-based organizations?

When a parent receives the heartbreaking news that their child has Cerebral Palsy, the first place he or she may turn is to for financial assistance is the federal government, or to state resources, to find funding and assistance to help meet a child’s needs.

Parents may turn to their faith or house of worship for support, for encouragement, and solace. But what parents may not realize is that faith-based organizations – those that hold themselves out to be philanthropic as well as religious – are often committed to helping people cope during difficult times by providing help with necessities such as food, shelter, medical services, and monies for utility or house payments.

These organizations, known as FBOs, are typically affiliated with a specific church or religious organization, or are a private foundation. How they provide services to community members is varied; many operate food and clothing banks year-round, or have monies set aside from fundraising efforts that can be used to help people who meet certain requirements pay down bills. All faith-based charities, however, have one essential element in common – they strive to assist families that are economically or otherwise vulnerable.

FBOs often receive government grants to provide services within their communities. Those in the federal government have long realized that FBOs have a strong leadership connection within their communities because of strong ties to businesses, support networks, volunteers and funding sources. They also have the facilities and the administrative staff to serve the communities at the grassroots level.

For these reasons, the government provides FBOs with support and funding through government grants for initiatives and programs within the community. FBOs accepting government funds are then required to offer the services not only to their constituency, but to the community at large, even if they are not direct members of the FBO.

Some FBOs have made helping children with physical, cognitive or intellectual disabilities a priority. But more often, the economic toll that is placed on parents because of medical bills, or the fact that one or both parents may have had to cut back on a work schedule to care for a child means that parents may qualify for services offered by FBOs.

The following FBOs are nondiscriminatory, providing services to the communities in which they reside. They may not focus exclusively on children with special needs; however, their programs are known to be inclusive. Although services may be unique to the community served, there is a good chance that parents will find much needed relief – and some hope – from the following organizations.

Catholic Charities USA

Catholic Charities USA, known as CCUSA, is a vast network of agencies and affiliates with a mission to serve, advocate and convene for members and the people they serve. They serve people in need and work to reduce poverty worldwide in a manner that respects the dignity of every human being.

Founded in 1910 as the National Conference of Catholic Charities, the network shortened their name in 1986 to Catholic Charities USA and moved their headquarters to Alexandria, Virginia.

CCUSA offers adoption services, pregnancy counseling, and disaster relief. They work to prevent poverty through employment, economic equality, and racial equality initiatives. The CCUSA has a long history of encouraging Congress to enact policies that address the needs of the poor.

In 2010, CCUSA reported that 171 CCUSA membership agencies comprising of 3,301 local catholic charities, staffed by 493,199 individuals provided $15.4 million in services to over 10.3 million clients within the United States. Their initiatives include,

  • Food Services to 7.1 million through food banks and pantries, soup kitchens, congregate dining and home delivered meals.
  • Community-Building Services to 4.2 million through social support services, education and enrichment, at-risk population services, socialization and neighborhood services and health-related services.
  • Basic Needs Services to 1.9 million through clothing, utilities, emergency financial aid, prescriptions and other basic needs.
  • Family Strengthening Services to 1.0 million through immigration services, counseling and mental health, refugee services, addiction services, pregnancy services and adoption.
  • Housing Services to .5 million through housing services, temporary shelter, permanent housing, supervised living and transitional housing.
  • Employment Services to 88,400 individuals.

CCUSA identified 493,199 individuals worked with the agency; 81 percent volunteers, 17 percent paid, and 2 percent board members.

Sixty-two percent of CCUSA’s revenue comes from the government while 11 percent comes from business initiatives and investments, 10 percent from program fees, 9 percent from community support and United Way, and 6 percent from in-kind and diocesan church support.

The CCUSA programs that are most likely to assist families that include a child with Cerebral Palsy are its comprehensive housing programs. The CCUSA’s housing counseling program was founded in 1994, and is comprised of 30 agencies that are now known as the Housing Counseling Network.

The network is supported by the Fannie Mae Foundation and is considered as a National Intermediary for the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department, or HUD. The fact that the CCUSA program is HUD-affiliated is valuable for families having trouble balancing their checkbooks. They are approved to administer mortgage modifications, mortgage scam grants, reverse mortgage and housing counseling to keep vulnerable families in their homes.

All CCUSA services are provided without regard to a person’s religious, social or economic background.

For more information, visit Catholic Charities USA.

For a list of CCUSA agencies, visit CCUSA Directory.

Catholic Charities USA
2050 Ballenger Avenue, Suite 400
Alexandria, VA 22314

Civitan International

Civitan International is a volunteer-based service club that endeavors to provide many individual and community services, from hosting fundraisers to building a local playground to providing food for needy residents. The Civitans are also of only a handful of FBOs that have specific, targeted programs dedicated to helping children with developmental disabilities and their parents.

Founded in 1917 by Dr. Courtney W. Shropshire, a prominent Birmingham, Alabama physician, the Civitans were initially involved in a variety of local causes. By 1950, the members had re-dedicated themselves to helping children with developmental disabilities. The organization would later sponsor camps and events designed to meet the needs of children with developmental disabilities, and become a primary backer of the Special Olympics International.

Civitan is an association of volunteer service clubs toting over 40,000 members in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia.

The UAB Civitan International Research Center located on the campus of the University of Alabama was made possible by monies provided by Civitan. The CIRC is classified as one of the nation’s prominent Centers of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities research and is recognized as a world-class facility dedicated to research and treatment of developmental disabilities. CIRC researchers are conducting ground-breaking research on autism, Cerebral Palsy, Down syndrome, epilepsy, and more. Additionally, the Civitans developed research institutes in Norway, Philippines and West Africa.

Local Civitan groups pursue a variety of activities depending on community needs and available resources. For more than 50 years, Civitans have been selling fruitcakes during the holiday season to support local organizations that help children with developmentally-challenges.

To find a Civitan club in your area, visit Local Civitan Directory.

Civitan International
P.O. Box 130744
Birmingham, Alabama 35213-0744
1-800- CIVITAN

Habitat for Humanity International

Habitat for Humanity International was founded in 1976 by longtime housing advocates Millard and Linda Fuller with one mission in mind: To address the problem of poverty by making clean, safe, affordable housing available to responsible, low-income adults. Headquartered in Atlanta, Geo. they provide services worldwide.

Mostly known for its affiliation with United States President Jimmy Carter and wife Rosalyn Carter, Habitat is responsible for building or rehabilitating 600,000 homes serving more than 3 million people in neighborhoods throughout the world, and in particular areas that have been hit by natural disasters.

This feat was achieved, in part, by the “Fund for Humanity,” which offers no-interest, 20-year home loans to families that are low income, but have demonstrated an ability to re-pay the loan. Month mortgage payments are then added to the fund, which pays for more homes for more families.

Habitat is nondiscriminatory, meaning race, religion nor disability are factors in service provisions. Families in need of decent shelter apply to their local Habitat affiliate office. Selection is determined based on level of need, willingness to become partners in the program and ability to repay the loan. Though there are no specific programs geared towards families that include children with special needs, many of the families include at least one member with a disability. Additionally, disability income is not considered an impediment to loan approval.

Homes can be built or rehabilitated to include accessible floor plans. A Habitat advisor will work with families to match a family’s needs to the homes being constructed or planned within their community.

One unique feature of Habitat is that homeowners work alongside volunteers and sponsors to construct their home. This provides a buyer with a sense of achievement and ownership. Often times, homes will be sponsored by churches or corporations, which donate time, building supplies and funds to complete each home.

Potential homeowners should be aware that the process for applying for a loan is contingent on several factors; the process can be a long one that includes a credit check and requires the homeowner to attend workshops about home ownership.

In some communities, local Habitat groups offer a program called “A Brush with Kindness,” which helps homeowners who cannot make repairs to their homes, complete the work that is needed. These tasks include minor repairs, painting and cleaning.

For more information, visit Habitat for Humanity International.

To apply for a Habitat house, visit Application for Habitat house.

To volunteer, visit Volunteer Opportunities at Habitat.

Habitat for Humanity International
121 Habitat Street
Aericus, GA 31709-3498 USA

Jewish Funders Network

The Jewish Funders Network, also JFN, is an international organization that is dedicated to advancing the growth of Jewish philanthropy within communities.

In 2010, the organization announced it had harnessed the resources of 100 funders and a collection of charities to address special needs within the Jewish community and beyond. A conference, called ADVANCE, was held in New York in October 2010 to determine that the needs of individuals with disabilities should be a top priority. The network then moved forward with a two-year partnership that examined funding levels, successes and failures, and potential sources of additional monies and resources that could be brought to bear on behalf of people with disabilities.

JFN has determined that 14 percent of the Jewish community has special needs or disability. Part of their new initiative is to determine ways to more fully integrate individuals with special needs and disabilities more fully into the Jewish communal life.

Additionally, the JFN released a resource guide listing organizations that help individuals with disabilities and special needs. They hope the resource guide will inspire others to support programs that improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.

For more information, visit Jewish Funders Network.

To learn about the developmentally disabled initiative, visit The Developmentally Disabled Initiative.

JFN Headquarters
150 W. 30th Street, Suite 900
New York, NY 10001

Lutheran Services in America

Lutheran Services in America, or LSA, is a christian-based alliance with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, or ELCA, and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, or LCMS, that serve communities in the United States and the Caribbean.

The organization has several goals it works towards using the power of volunteerism, fundraising and relationships with 300 human service agencies in the United States. LSA has an annual income of $18.3 billion and serves 6 million individuals per year.

The organization’s disability network was designed specifically to address the needs of people with physical or intellectual challenges.

The network achieves this goal by partnering with 22 member organizations that offer services to more than 23,000 individuals in 33 states. The disability-related services provided by the network include affordable housing, host homes, independent and semi-independent living programs, day programs, and in-home family support services. They also provide services for the homeless and at-risk, education and job development services, emergency assistance, food and clothing programs, and counseling services.

But Lutheran Services in America is also involved in political advocacy on behalf of persons with disabilities; the organization actively supports and engages lawmakers that support Medicaid policies that improve services to the disabled. The organization supports policies that allow Medicaid providers the freedom to treat persons with disabilities based on their individual medical needs.

Some locations provide home and community-based health care services such as adaptive aids, home modifications, dietary, dental, psychological, and respite. Adoption and specialized foster care programs are also available in some communities.

For more information, visit Lutheran Services in America.

For more information on LSA disability networks, visit LSA disability networks.

To find local LSA resources, visit Local LSA Directory.

Lutheran Services in America
100 Maryland Avenue, NE, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20002

The Salvation Army

Known for its bell-ringing volunteers that collect spare change in bright red kettles during the holidays, many people would be surprised to know that the Salvation Army, a Christian denomination, is one of the largest providers of social services in the world.

The Christian Mission, as it was originally dubbed, was founded in 1865 in London by Methodist Reform Minister William Booth whose aim was to lead those at-risk and/or the desperately poor through spiritual guidance, hope and salvation. In 1878, he envisioned the movement as a volunteer army, penned “Salvation Army.”

Today, the Salvation Army has presence in more than 120 countries. As its name implies, the Salvation Army has a military structure with ranks that include general and officer, among others. The goal of the Army is to provide, without discrimination, religious salvation and humanitarian aid to persons that are poor, homeless, displaced, or in need of aid.

Armed with over 25,000 volunteers in 5,000 communities nationwide, The Salvation Army raised $148.7 million in 2012. These funds provided assistance to nearly 30 million Americans in 2012 through a broad array of social services, including:

  • Providing food for the hungry
  • Relief for disaster victims
  • Assistance for the disabled
  • Outreach to the elderly and ill
  • Clothing and shelter to the homeless
  • Opportunities for underprivileged children
  • Rehabilitation to prisoners and those struggling with drug and alcohol issues
  • Reunite and rebuild lives affected when individuals are missing, abducted or human trafficked

Donations serve the communities in which they are raised. Private donations fund the vast majority of the Army’s charitable activities. The Army is currently the second largest charity in the United States.

Though much of the Army’s work lies in helping people survive and rebuild their lives after disasters like the Indian Tsunami in Japan or Hurricane Katrina, the organization’s local chapters provide several services that assist families that struggling financially. The Army also has programs that specifically assist children with special needs.

The Army’s charity shops are located in communities across the United States, and internationally. Donated goods can be purchased inexpensively, which generates monies for the Army’s initiatives.

Those initiatives include programs that provide funds for utility payments and rental assistance, free in-house drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs at its Adult Rehabilitation Centers, or ARCs.

The Army also operates group homes, emergency shelters and transitional living centers for people who are displaced. The Army operates food pantries that serve thousands of low-income adults and their children.

The Army also aims to address poverty and the many issues connected to it through family service programs. These programs help individuals locate adequate housing, and in some cases provide vocational training.

Those wishing to donate to the Army can do so through car donations, airline miles, planned gifts, corporate sponsorships, clothing drives, and the annual kettle drive.

For more information, visit The Salvation Army

To find a local Salvation Army, visit Local Directory

The Salvation Army National Headquarters
615 Slaters Lane
P.O. Box 269
Alexandria, VA 22313

Volunteers of America

Volunteers of America is a faith-based, non-profit group that was founded in 1896 by social reformers Ballington and Maud Booth. Their aim was to reach and uplift the American people with the motto “Go wherever we are needed, and do whatever comes to hand.” Their vision is “A world where all people live in safety, with social, emotional and physical well being, spiritual fulfillment, justice and hope.”

In an effort to help the most vulnerable and under-served individuals, the VOA focuses on homelessness and poverty, housing for the elderly and individuals with disability, and those at-risk or with substance abuse addiction. They provide services to people with physical or intellectual disabilities, particularly in the area of housing and healthcare.

The non-profit is headquartered in Alexandria, Va. and serves 2.5 million individuals in over 400 communities within the United States. Over 60,000 volunteers help deliver services.

As one of the largest nonprofit providers of affordable housing, the VOA owns and operates 377 affordable housing properties. The VOA receives grants from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development for housing initiatives for the elderly and individuals with a disability.

An in-home service to children and adults living in VOA-operated facilities is provided to encourage independent living. Staff members provide supportive assistance such as personal care services, and also organize recreational outings and activities for residents.

VOA members are committed to faith, human dignity, and social justice. They are based in the premise of people voluntarily choosing to help others.

For more information, visit Volunteers of America

To find a local Volunteers of America office, visit Local Directory

Volunteers of America National Office
1660 Duke Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA)

The Young Men’s Christian Association and Young Women’s Christian Association, known as YMCA and YWCA, operate large recreational facilities and conduct several programs for low-income families, some of which are geared towards children with special needs. In 2010, the YMCA and YWCA began to refer to their brand as “the Y.”

The YMCA was founded in 1844 in London, which was followed by the establishment of the YWCA 11 years later. The association’s original intent was to provide a haven from the turmoil, despair and dangerous influences young individuals were exposed to during the industrialized era when they migrated from rural communities to the inner cities for work.

Today, the principles of the organizations are to “focus on nurturing the potential of every child and then improving the nation’s health and well-being and providing opportunities to give back and support neighbors, the Y enables youth, adults, families and communities to be healthy, confident, connected and secure.” They provide shelter, recreation, educational opportunities and support within local communities. Their services are wholesome and at low- to no-cost.

Although not every program is specifically designed for children with special needs, the volunteers and paid staff at the “Y” aim to accommodate a child’s needs and find solutions that allow all to participate in activities that take place on site, or out in the community.

Specific programs include athletics, tutoring, education activities and play time, among others. There are camps that are available to all children; though some are designed specifically for children with special needs. “Y” membership also means access to facilities, which include basketball courts, tennis courts, indoor activity rooms, computer rooms and a swimming pool – the last of which can be used to cool off in the summer or as a therapeutic setting for a child.

The Y prides itself as a place where youth and teen belong and feel comfortable to explore new interests and passions. Mentoring, leadership and academic enrichment are provided. Their recreational programs foster sportsmanship, teamwork and participation. Camps explore nature, new interests, friendship and independence. The health clubs promote healthy lifestyles, well-being and fitness. Group activities provide fellowship and quality of life enrichment opportunities.

Social responsibility is a cornerstone for the Y. Volunteerism and donations provide life-altering resources and support for those in need. After school child care, school lunch programs, and summer food programs are offered in the communities in which the Y resides.

Y locations are in communities across America. Their services and activities vary by location. Boys and girls are allowed at all locations in furtherance of both organizations’ policy of inclusion at all levels.

The YMCA claims to be the nation’s leading nonprofit with 9 million youth and 12 million adult members in 10,000 U.S. communities. Worldwide, the Y serves 45 million in 125 countries.

The YWCA represents 2 million members in 230 local associations across the U.S. and 25 million members worldwide in 100 countries. Services include child care, rape crisis intervention, domestic violence assistance, fitness training, shelters, career counseling, job training and entrepreneurial training.

For more information, visit YMCA.

To find a Local “Y”, visit Local Y.

To find a Y Camp, visit Y Camp.

YMCA of the USA
101 N. Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60606
1-800-872-9622 USA

For more information, visit YWCA.

To find a local YWCA, visit Local YWCA.

2025 M. St. NW, Suite 550
Washington, DC 20036

Community Support and Funding

therapist and son enjoying a therapy session

Community Support and Funding

Organizations within the community exist to support and assist individuals with disabilities. Often, it is just a matter of being aware of what resources are in your community and how to contact them. Learn more, visit
Community Support and Funding