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St. Louis disability nonprofit receives $2 million for advocacy and programming

Katherine Streeter

The Starkloff Disability Institute works to advocate for people with disabilities, providing career training and resources through a variety of peer-led programs. The local nonprofit was one of 361 organizations to receive a multimillion-dollar donation.

The Yield Giving Open Call, managed by Lever for Change, awarded $641 million nationwide to small organizations battling inequality in high-need areas.

“We are excited that our partnership with Yield Giving has resonated with so many organizations,” said Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change. “In a world teeming with potential and talent, the Open Call has given us an opportunity to identify, uplift, and empower transformative organizations that often remain unseen.”

The Starkloff Disability Institute received $2 million this week — it aims to use the donation to help more people with disabilities reach their potential. The number of program-enrolled students with disabilities tripled from 2022 to 2023. Lori Becker, CEO of Starkloff Disability Institute, started at the company as a program participant.

“My brother and I actually share the same visual impairment. Other than him, I didn't know any other disabled people. I came together with a group in this Career Academy program, and what I learned is that we all faced the same challenges,” Becker said. “There's real strength in knowing that you're not the only one.”

The Starkloff Disability Institute aims to help students of all ages learn lessons about self-advocacy, time management and confidence. The programs are vitally important to those with disabilities, Becker said, and equally beneficial for their employers. The organization provides consulting services to more than 50 workplaces.

“It is going to help not just people with disabilities, but everyone in their organization thrive,” Becker said. “Do not talk about [a disability] it from a position of weakness or a position of being a burden. You're an asset to this company, tell them how you will contribute.”

More than 6,000 organizations applied to receive funding in March 2023. The Open Call initially planned to award a $1 million donation to 250 organizations nationwide. The donor team, including Amazon co-founder MacKenzie Scott, expanded the donation amount and the number of gifts later that year.

“Each of these 361 community-led nonprofits was elevated by peer organizations and a Round-2 evaluation panel for their outstanding work advancing the voices and opportunities of individuals and families of meager or modest means, and groups who have met with discrimination and other systemic obstacles,” Scott said.

The Starkloff Disability Institute was one of seven Missouri-based companies chosen from the Yield Giving Open Call. More than 20 nonprofit organizations in Illinois received a $2 million gift.

“This is going to really help us do more outreach. Getting more people into this program, having the staff capacity to meet those needs — is going to be really critically important,” Becker said.

Copyright 2024 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Lauren Brennecke
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