Conference Helps Faith-Based Groups Apply for Gov't Grants

Faith-based groups and nonprofits received advice on how to access millions of dollars in federal grant money during a two-day conference sponsored by the White House Conference on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

More than 1,000 nonprofit leaders joined the conference, held Nov.5-6 in Indianapolis, to learn from experts on how to improve their skills when it comes to writing proposals for government grants and grow their social service programs.

"Government works better when we work with every willing partner, whether it's a large or small organization, a faith-based or a secular one," Jay Hein, director of the Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, said Monday.

Groups with church and other religious ties from Indiana were awarded $150 million in federal grants last year, he reported.

Hein also noted that Indiana is one of a few states that coordinate their volunteerism program with their office of faith-based and community initiatives, according to The Indianapolis Star.

Gov. Mitch Daniels, who set up the state's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives shortly after he became governor in 2005, commended faith-based groups for helping the state's prisons set up a program that prepares inmates for return to life on the outside. He also credited churches and other nonprofits for informing low-income Indiana residents about a prescription drug program.

Paula Parker-Sawyers, the office's executive director, said they would continue raising awareness of the opportunities to faith-based organizations since "there are still pockets of the state that don't know we exist."

Indianapolis Colts football coach Tony Dungy spoke Monday about the organization he's involved in, called All-Pro Dad, which emphasizes the important role fathers play in their children's lives.

Dungy, who was appointed to the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation two months ago, also presented Presidential Volunteer Service to two Indianapolis men who started a monthly father-child breakfast celebration at local schools.

During the two-day conference, representatives from faith-based and community groups attended a variety of workshops showing them how to get involved in many of the programs eligible for federal funding.

Indiana is one of 34 states with government offices set up to support faith-based initiatives.

The conference in Indiana comes just months after a group of atheists and agnostics brought a lawsuit against the White House Faith-Based and Community Initiative for violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Initiative, which was established by President George Bush in 2002.

The next event sponsored by the White House Faith-Based and Community Initiatives is the National Summit on Prisoner Reentry, which will be held Nov. 27-28 in Los Angeles.