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Rockville Centre nonprofit aids people with disabilities

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Getting an influx of cash from Google is not something that happens to companies very often, so when a Rockville Centre-based nonprofit received a $5 million loan, its president and CEO was thrilled.

For the past 13 years, the Disability Opportunity Fund has been supporting people with disabilities, and will now be able to better continue its mission, thanks to the generous loan from Google. The organization recently received a $5 million Grow with Google Small Business Fund loan from Opportunity Finance Network, which will be used to address the needs of people with disabilities, with an emphasis on minority and women-owned businesses, and those hurt by the economic impact of Covid-19.

“We are thankful of the support from OFN and Google as they launched this program in the height of Covid-19,” Charles D. Hammerman, President and CEO of Disability Opportunity Fund, said. “While Covid-19 has upended the lives of all Americans, people with disabilities have been especially hard hit as crucial services have been cut off and resources dedicated to their support have dwindled. This loan will go a long way toward helping us fund innovative businesses and nonprofits that are doing life-saving work in the disability community.”

Hammerman explained that the organization is a community development financial institution that acts as a bank, financing projects that focus on assisting people with disabilities. He said the nonprofit does not solicit funds, but relies on loans from banks to complete its mission on a national level. Since its inception in 2007, DOF has provided lending, investment services and technical expertise to companies, not-for-profit organizations and agencies working with people with disabilities to help them achieve independence. 

The Grow with Google Small Business fund was launched in March 2020 and delivers financing to community development financial institutions that are supporting the short-term recovery and long-term financing needs of America’s small businesses hardest hit by the pandemic. At the same time, Google.org made a $5 million grant to Opportunity Finance Network to enable CDFIs to improve access to capital for the most marginalized communities. The unrestricted grants can support operations, loan capital, loan loss reserve, capacity building, or any other purpose.

“Google investing $5 million into a Long Island CDFI is a big deal for us,” Hammerman said, noting that his organization is one of only a handful of community development financial institutions on Long Island.

“Community development financial institutions are essential to ensuring that as we recover from the pandemic, financial resources are available to all small businesses across the country,” said Angela Pinsky, Google’s Senior Government Affairs Manager for New York and New Jersey. “Google couldn’t be more proud to partner with the Disability Opportunity Fund, which has a proven track record of lifting up businesses that support the most vulnerable members of our society.” 

The Disability Opportunity Fund’s local success stories include Karen’s Hope, a Seaford-based foundation that supports and empowers individuals with disabilities, providing them with resources and housing so they can transition into living independent lives as adults. Hammerman said he helped with court proceedings and grant applications to get this foundation up and running.

With the loan from Google, DOF used $500,000 to finance a New York City-based company called Hiki, a platform built by Jamil Karriem to combat the loneliness plaguing the autistic community – a problem that has gotten worse over the past year.

“It can’t be overstated what this capital means to our community,” Karriem, Hiki’s founder and CEO, said. “Autistic adults deserve a remarkable product that is truly representative of their wants and needs.”

According to Karriem, there have been more than 30,000 new relationships made on Hiki and 73 percent of the community reported feeling happier and more fulfilled in life after just two weeks on the platform.

“This financing will enable us to build that unique product and continue to grow our community so that we can make a positive impact on more lives,” Karriem said. “We built Hiki because we believe that friendship, love and community are the essence of joy – and that everyone deserves to be happy.”

For more information, visit www.thedof.org or contact Hammerman at info@thedof.org or call 516-399-3020.