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Pittsburgh Disability Employment Project for Freedom is new Champion in Action

Agency receives $25,000 grant, volunteer and promotional support

PITTSBURGH    (January 13, 2010) - Citizens Bank and WPXI-TV today named Pittsburgh Disability Employment Project for Freedom as their first quarter Champion in Action® under the category of workforce development. Project for Freedom, which addresses the problem of extremely high unemployment rates among people with disabilities, will receive a $25,000 grant from the Citizens Bank Foundation, and extensive volunteer and promotional support from Citizens Bank, WPXI-TV and Pittsburgh Cares.

“Citizens Bank is pleased to join WPXI-TV in naming Project for Freedom as our newest Champion in Action,” said Ralph J. Papa, Chairman of Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania. “Under the leadership of Executive Director Coleen Vuono, this tremendous organization breaks down attitudinal barriers that often impede individuals with disabilities from obtaining competitive employment. Project for Freedom graduates not only earn a career, but a new life as well.”

“As an organization committed to the community, WPXI-TV is proud to partner with Citizens Bank to honor Project for Freedom,” said Ray Carter, WPXI-TV’s general manager. “WPXI-TV congratulates Project for Freedom on providing students with disabilities with an opportunity to gain fulfilling employment and lead rich and productive lives, as well as make significant contributions to the potential growth of organizations.”

Through Champions in Action, Citizens Bank and WPXI-TV recognize and support nonprofit organizations for the contributions these groups make to communities in the Pittsburgh region. A new Champion in Action is selected each quarter among a range of social service areas.

As a Champion in Action, Project for Freedom will receive:
• $25,000 contribution in unrestricted funds from the Citizens Bank Foundation.
• Media coverage from WPXI-TV, including public service announcements and TV profile.
• Volunteer support from Pittsburgh Cares and Citizens and WPXI-TV employees.
• Extensive public relations support.
• Promotional support, highlighting the organization in all Citizens Bank branches.
• Exposure on both Citizens Bank and WPXI-TV Web sites.

What makes Project for Freedom a Champion in Action?
• Founded in 1998, Project for Freedom has the only training program in the region that provides focused skills training plus job placement for qualified persons with disabilities. Since its inception, more than 200 people with disabilities have been trained in help-desk
technology and customer-support service certification. Seventy percent if its graduates have been placed in competitive positions in regional businesses.
• Through the establishment of public-private partnerships with employers, government agencies and other non-profit organizations, Project for Freedom prepares students with the ability to gain fulfilling employment and lead rich, productive lives. The program relies on the business community to identify the unmet human resource needs in the region’s dominant industries and then provides matching training programs to prepare candidates to fill those positions.
• The Project for Freedom program facilitates the transition to full-time competitive employment and economic self-sufficiency. It places emphasis on professional development skills that go beyond technical aspects of the job, empowering the students to succeed in the workplace culture and to meet high professional standards.

“Project for Freedom enables people with disabilities to become productive, contributing members of society and to regain the dignity that comes from supporting themselves and their families,” said Colleen Vuono, Executive Director of Project for Freedom.

In addition to Project for Freedom, the following organizations have been selected as Champions in Action since the program was introduced in western Pennsylvania in 2004: Wilkinsburg Community Ministry, Aliquippa Alliance for Unity and Development, Beginning with Books, The Neighborhood Academy, HEARTH, Human Services Center Corporation, Washington Community Arts and Cultural Center, Rainbow Kitchen Community Services, Sojourner House MOMS, Little Sisters of the Poor, Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, Health Hope Network, YouthPlaces, the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, Oakland Planning and Development Corporation, Family Tyes, and NeighborWorks®, Paul Laurence Dunbar Community Center, Light of Life Rescue Mission, Dress for Success, and POWER.

To learn more about Project for Freedom, located at 1323 Forbes Avenue, Suite 232, visit www.projectforfreedom.org.

About Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania

Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania is a state-chartered bank with dual headquarters in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. It has 383 branches and 646 ATMs throughout Pennsylvania. It also operates 15 retail branches and 64 ATMs in southern New Jersey and a commercial loan office in Virginia. It is a subsidiary of Citizens Financial Group, Inc., a $151 billion commercial bank holding company headquartered in Providence, R.I.

Citizens Financial Group, through its subsidiaries, has more than 1,500 branches, and approximately 3,500 ATMs and approximately 22,600 employees. CFG's two bank subsidiaries are RBS Citizens, N.A. and Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania. They operate a 12-state branch network under the Citizens Bank brand in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont, and the Charter One brand in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio. CFG has non-branch retail and commercial offices in about 40 states. CFG is owned by RBS (The Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc).

About WPXI

WPXI-TV is a Cox Television station in the Pittsburgh television market. Cox Television includes 15 television stations, three national television sales representation firms, a television production company, and a Washington, D.C. news office. Cox Television is a subsidiary of Cox Enterprises, Inc., based in Atlanta. WPXI-TV’s Web site is wpxi.com.

About Pittsburgh Cares

Pittsburgh Cares, founded in 1992, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing community engagement through volunteerism and enhancing the impact of regional service partners. In 2006-07, Pittsburgh Cares coordinated more than 950 volunteer projects. Pittsburgh Cares volunteer network has provided more than 44,500 hours of service over the past year and with an average of 217 new volunteers per month, our impact continues to grow stronger. Pittsburgh Cares coordinates three specialized programs: Youth Engaged in Service (YES), Campus Cares, and Business Cares. YES is an outreach program that connects youth under 18 year of age to volunteer opportunities. Campus Cares works with the local college community including Greek Life, student organizations, individual students, and faculty/staff to connect them to a wide variety of volunteer and service-learning opportunities. Business Cares coordinates employee volunteer programming for small, mid-size and large companies in Greater Pittsburgh through customized contracts. For more information on Pittsburgh Cares, please log onto www.pittsburghcares.org or call 412-471-2114.