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Catholics yank funding over condoms

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JAUME D'URGELL
  • Jaume d'Urgell

Update: RecycleForce took another hit this week when the Community Crime Prevention Grant Board, a long-time supporter, declined to include the firm in its most recent round of funding.

"The CCPG Board received 80 letters of intent requesting more than $9 million in funding which far exceeds the funds available this year," read the email from Jennifer Reed, Indy Parks Foundation's grants and database manager. "We wish you every success and hope you will be able to secure the funding needed for your program."



A bowl of condoms placed in an AmeriCorps outreach post in the RecycleForce warehouse just cost the nonprofit recycler $20,000 in revoked grant funding.

The federal service corps is one of several organizations that partner with RecycleForce to provide services to the ex-offender community. AmeriCorps provided STD/HIV education and testing. Given the goals of prevention, treatment and eradication, the idea of providing condoms to a community of high-risk individuals — offering a means of preventing transmission during sex — is a recommended best practice among epidemiologists and AIDS practitioners.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development felt the condoms represented an affront to Catholic teachings and pulled the final $20,000 installment of a $40,000 grant commitment. In a letter of explanation, a CCHD official noted how important the ex-offender ministry was his church - as long as the HIV services offered focused on only abstinence.

"Individuals exiting prison have much higher incidences of STDs, HIV and Hepatitis C," RecycleForce President Gregg Keesling wrote in his letter of appeal. "Untreated health issues are a significant barrier to escaping poverty. Our partnership with AmeriCorps was focused on health issues. It is to this latter partnership that our local grant officer objected."

Even after AmeriCorps removed the condoms, CCB refused to reinstate its promised grant.

The funds were slated to pay salaries, Keesling said. Not wanting to ask his workforce in training to take cuts - many probationers and parolees pay more than half of their meager salaries in myriad fees the criminal justice system has invented to raise revenue - Keesling's full-time staffers will be asked to shoulder a portion of the burden caused by the evaporated CCHD support. The team's resourcefulness has found ways to grow and blossom in uncertain times in the past. And with a growing group of partners shipping recyclables and offering ex-offender support, RecycleForce continues to create opportunities to build new markets for reclaimed materials.

Grants, donations and partnerships will all continue to be necessary to support the burgeoning workforce while it does the tedious work of picking, sorting, shredding, loading and unloading. Still RecycleForce's resource-based revenue stream is poised to grow. The arrival of a new, high-tech piece of processing equipment - aka The Beast - allows the recovery of a higher percentage of the precious metals locked away in various e-waste elements. More metals, more money!

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