West Chester, Pa (December 14, 2022) – Six Chester County nonprofit organizations that serve diverse communities and those more frequently targeted by hate crimes were awarded more than $137,000 in total state grant funding for important safety and security upgrades, state Senator Carolyn Comitta said today.

The funds, approved by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) today, are as follows:

  • $25,000 for the Bethel AME Church.
  • $23,500 for Chimes Holcomb Behavioral Health Systems.
  • $25,000 for the Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in West Chester.
  • $25,000 for the Episcopal Church of the Trinity in Coatesville.
  • $13,700 for the Islamic Society of Chester County.
  • $25,000 for St. Paul’s Baptist Church in West Chester.

The Pennsylvania Nonprofit Security Grant Fund Program was established by the legislature in Act 83 of 2019 to provide grants to nonprofit organizations that principally serve individuals, groups, or institutions that often face bias and hate crimes. Eligible grant projects include a variety of measures to enhance security ranging from equipment and technology upgrades to planning, threat awareness, and response training

Comitta, then a state representative, voted for the legislation (House Bill 859) that created the program.

As many of our faith communities prepare to celebrate major religious holidays this month, it’s important that we continue to value and uphold our right to worship peacefully and without fear of threats or violence,” Comitta said. “Chester County has long been home to a strong and supportive interfaith community. I hope these investments will help bolster our ongoing efforts to stand together in support of religious freedom, tolerance, and community safety.”

“Considering the incidents of violence against places of worship throughout the country, we are pleased to receive this $25,000 grant that will enable Episcopal Church of the Trinity to improve our facility’s safety and security. We plan to add exterior lighting, among other improvements to our historic building, as added measures for our community’s safety. We greatly appreciate and thank Senator Comitta for her advocacy in obtaining this grant,” said the Rev. Sherry Deets of the Episcopal Church of the Trinity.

“During these unprecedented times, unfortunately, there is a dire need for this grant. We are grateful for Senator Comitta’s commitment to the community and sacred places. We look forward to using this grant for the betterment of our church and community,” said the Rev. Dr. Wayne E. Croft, Sr. of St. Paul’s Baptist Church. 

The Chester County recipients come as part of more than $3.9 million in funding awarded to churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and other nonprofit organizations statewide.

PCCD selects awardees in consultation with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and the Pennsylvania State Police. Eligible applicants are included within a bias motivation category for single bias hate crime incidents as identified by the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics publication. The categories include race/ethnicity/ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity.

Projects that are eligible for funding through the Pennsylvania Nonprofit Security Grant Fund Program include:

  • Planning, threat awareness, and response training.
  • Equipment and technology, such as metal detectors, lighting, surveillance, communications systems, locksets, deadbolts, trauma kits, and antitheft devices.
  • Vulnerability and threat assessments.
  • Other projects to enhance safety or security.

According to data from the Pennsylvania State Police Uniform Crime Reporting System, Pennsylvania experienced an uptick in hate crimes over the past two years. From 2016 through 2019, Pennsylvania saw an average of 88 hate crimes annually. In 2020, incidents of hate crimes rose by 27 percent to 112. In 2021, there was a 210 percent increase to 347 crimes.

“In addition to supporting these investments in security and safety, we all have a moral obligation to stand against hate by promoting a healthy dialogue, teaching our young people the values of acceptance and inclusion, and ensuring that our communities remain open, diverse, and welcoming places for all people,” Comitta said.

The Pennsylvania Nonprofit Security Grant Fund Program, now in its third year, was established in response to the 2018 attack on the Jewish community at the Tree of Life, New Light, and Dor Hadash congregations in Pittsburgh. According to the Anti-Defamation League, it is believed to be the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States.