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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Oct. 22, 2003) – Karen Woods has joined the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty as director of the Center for Effective Compassion, a new unit within the institute that will promote models of private, voluntary charitable service aimed at helping the needy. In her new role, Woods will also direct the Samaritan Awards, an annual recognition of the best charitable organizations in the United States that operate predominately with private funds.

“With the new Center for Effective Compassion, the Acton Institute will serve as the leading U.S. clearinghouse for information about privately funded charities, including those that are faith-based,” Woods said. “With the Samaritan Awards, we will be able to recognize the leading practitioners of effective compassion and share best practices with other nonprofits.”

Before joining Acton, Woods was executive director of The Empowerment Network, based in Muskegon, Mich., a national research and training organization for community groups and lawmakers. Previously, she was a research analyst with the State of Michigan’s Family Independence Agency. She is an expert on welfare reform policy and has trained numerous community and charitable groups on funding and management issues.

As director of the Center for Effective Compassion, Woods will produce a series of conferences in 2004 designed to share best practices with other charitable groups. The center will highlight programs that demand accountability, teach responsibility, build mentoring relationships, foster self-reliance and offer individual solutions. In addition, Woods will oversee the production of an annual Guide to Effective Compassion , a comprehensive directory of all Samaritan Award candidates and others who follow the center’s principles of effective compassion. The Guide will also be available as a searchable, online database.

The Center for Effective Compassion was made possible through a generous leadership gift of the W.H. Brady Foundation in honor of the legacy of W.H. Brady.

About the Acton Institute

With its commitment to pursue a society that is free and virtuous, the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty is a leading voice in the national environmental and social policy debate. The Acton Institute is uniquely positioned to comment on the sound economic and moral foundations necessary to sustain humane environmental and social policies.

The Acton Institute is a nonprofit, ecumenical think tank located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Institute works internationally to "promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles."

Interviews with Institute staff may be arranged by contacting John Couretas at (616) 454-3080 or at