Polk Foundation


The Polk Foundation’s mission is to support high-quality programs that provide people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities with opportunities and choices to grow and function at their full potential as independently as possible.


In 1951, Patricia Hillman Miller (1923–1968), the youngest daughter of John Hartwell Hillman, Jr., was stricken with polio. She recovered but was confined to a wheelchair for the remainder of her life. This experience only strengthened her keen interest in assisting people with disabilities.

In 1957, Patricia created a foundation to provide support for the Polk School in Venango County – hence the foundation’s name. Polk School (now Polk State Center) was a state-owned and operated facility for children with disabilities. At that time, it was the only available option for families in the region, and it had a long waiting list. After several years of effort, in 1961 Patricia was instrumental in the successful opening of the Allegheny Valley School for Exceptional Children – a new school dedicated to serving children with disabilities in southwestern Pennsylvania. Initially, the Polk Foundation’s primary mission was to support the Allegheny Valley School. This close relationship has continued to the present, although the Polk Foundation now supports a broader set of organizations serving individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Guiding Principles

Every person with a disability deserves to live in dignity and to have maximum opportunity to grow, achieve, and succeed. Honoring Patricia Hillman Miller’s commitment to this principle, the Foundation will continue to focus primarily on improving the quality of life for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.


  • Pittsburgh, PA

Grants Approved, 2018


Grants Paid, 2018


Funding Priorities

In the 2017–2020 time frame, the Polk Foundation will prioritize investments of the following types, pursuant to its mission as stated above:

  • Technology initiatives that enable maximum independence
  • Relevant research with high potential for quick translation to clinical care and quality-of-life improvements
  • Community initiatives that aim to make neighborhoods more welcoming and inclusive of those with disabilities
  • Capital improvements (on a limited basis)
  • Health / Medicine
  • Human / Social Services

Eligibility Requirements

  • Applicant organizations must be classified as tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code and as public charities under Section 509(a) of that code.
  • The geographic focus of the Foundation’s grantmaking program is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  • The Board reserves the right to approve grants in other locations at its discretion.
  • While the Foundation entertains requests from a wide variety of organizations, most grants are initiated at the direction of the program staff and Board of Trustees of the Foundation.

Application Procedure

  • Requests are accepted only through the online application process.
  • The grant portal functions best in Chrome, Safari or Firefox internet browsers.
  • Applications are reviewed weekly; however, please allow sufficient time for the review and consideration, and a timely response.
  • There are no fixed deadlines for the submission of applications.
  • The Board of Trustees meets at least annually to approve requests, but may meet as often as every quarter.
  • Please direct all questions regarding the application process to Carol Long at 412-338-3466; specific project-related questions should be directed to program staff.