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Disability Inclusive Grantmaking is the mission of DFN: inclusion of disability in grantmaking programs and inclusion of people with disabilities in grantmaking organizations.

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Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation: Toward Full Inclusion of People with Disabilities

Jeanne Argoff (left), executive director of DFN, and Son Park (right), chair of DFN’s Diaz Award committee, present the 2006 award to Rayna Aylward, executive director of Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation/

May 6, 2006, Pittsburgh, PA — The Disability Funders Network (DFN) today announced the selection of the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (MEAF) as the recipient of its 2006 William Diaz Impact Award.  The award, sponsored by The HSC Foundation (Washington, D.C.), was presented on May 6 at the Disability Awareness Showcase at the Council on Foundations’ annual meeting in Pittsburgh, PA.

The award honors the memory of Bill Diaz, former member of the DFN board, the first Latino program officer at the Ford Foundation, a founding director of the Puerto Rico Community Foundation, a director of the Council on Foundations and a senior fellow at the University of Minnesota ’s Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.  At the request of Bill’s family, DFN’s recognition of his impact on disability funding is being used to further the mission of DFN to expand and enhance the philanthropic world’s support of disability issues.

Now celebrating its 15th anniversary, the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation has focused its considerable energy and insight on enhancing the independence, productivity and community inclusion of children and youth with disabilities.  Though a national grants program and employee grant programs, MEAF has supported projects promoting young people with disabilities as they complete school, work in competitive jobs, fill internships on Capitol Hill and participate as full partners in mainstream youth organizations.  Recognized as a leader in the disability funding world, MEAF has paved the way for other foundations working to promote the full inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of society.

Accepting the award was MEAF’s executive director, Rayna Aylward, who has led the foundation since its inception and who was a co-founder of the Disability Funders Network, a colleague of Bill Diaz, and co-founder of the Youth-to-Work Coalition — a rapidly growing collaboration by foundations, corporate employers, government representatives and disability organizations aimed at encouraging companies to hire young people with disabilities as interns.

“We at the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation are profoundly honored by the award, and I personally am greatly moved by this reflection of the spirit of Bill Diaz, an extraordinary leader and treasured colleague.  I’d like to thank our nonprofit partners and company associates, whose efforts in the national arena and local communities are the real basis for MEAF’s achievements.  And I must pay tribute to DFN itself: a beacon in the disability field for the past 12 years whose work has immeasurably deepened the impact of our foundation and many others.”

The Diaz Award, including a plaque and a $500 check, was presented by Son Park (HSC Foundation), DFN’s Diaz Award committee chairperson, and Jeanne Argoff, DFN executive director, in a ceremony attended by Steve Gunderson, recently appointed as president and chief executive officer of the Council on Foundations. Mr. Gunderson was previously an eight-term member of the House of Representatives and was a sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.  The Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation was one of the first private funders to support disability organizations working to make the ADA a reality as one of the founding members of the Funding Partnership for People with Disabilities.

Steve Gunderson (left), addresses attendees at the Diaz Award ceremony, flanked by Jeanne Argoff, Son Park and Rayna Aylward. Gunderson is president and chief executive officer of the Council on Foundations; he previously served eight terms in the House of Representatives and sponsored the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.