FEATURE STORY: INDIA WEST
Ramesh and Kalpana Bhatia Family Foundation Donates $5 M to Friendship Foundation for Innovative Campus
REDONDO BEACH, Calif. – The Ramesh and Kalpana Bhatia Family Foundation Oct. 13 announced a $5 million donation to the Friendship Foundation, dedicated to elevating the lives of those with varying abilities for the past 15 years, for its innovative Friendship Campus. The $5 million grant from the Indian American Foundation will be used to create an innovative program for postsecondary students who are intellectually and physically diverse, which will be the cornerstone of a new 3.25-acre state-of-the-art education campus expected to be completed in early 2024 in Redondo Beach, stated a press release to India-West.
An organization dedicated to making impactful change by funding innovative solutions and programs that serve the common good, this partnership marks The Bhatia Family Foundation’s first major grant in the Los Angeles area.
Almost 200,000 students are enrolled in special education in Los Angeles County alone and 8 in 10 Americans with disabilities are unemployed. The Friendship Foundation’s new community-integrated, inclusive campus will give individuals with physical and intellectual diversities the tools to transform the workforce and find a lifelong passion and purpose.
The Bhatia College for Professional Development will collaborate with Vanderbilt University’s Frist Center for Autism and Innovation, local and national universities, and major corporations to help build a bridge for college-bound students and guide a path to successful employment and careers.
"We are honored to work with The Bhatia Family Foundation knowing they’re as passionate as we are about helping every student contribute to the workforce in a meaningful way,” said Yossi Mintz, founder of the Friendship Foundation. “There is a crucial need for career development beyond high school and this incredibly generous commitment from the Bhatia Family will help develop the most impactful curriculum at our Campus. We’re immensely grateful and thrilled to welcome them to the Friendship Foundation family.”
The innovative campus will include a 64,000 square foot facility to develop an engaging and inviting environment for the entire community, noted the release. The Friendship Foundation will focus on serving the whole individual with talent and skill building; personal growth and development programs; social and emotional wellness; healthy lifestyle habits and physical fitness; job training and exploration programs. Technology, media, hospitality, retail, culinary, office, education, trades, and landscaping are some of the initial vocational programs planned. A state-of-the-art studio will include training on digital media such as graphic design, coding, game design; visual arts such as painting, photography, filmmaking; craftwork such as woodwork and jewelry making; and music such as songwriting, audio production and music mixing. Culinary arts will feature a Friendship Café and Teaching Kitchen to give students hands-on learning experience for training in hospitality and culinary industry careers.
“When we learned about the Friendship Foundation and their vision for a unified campus, we knew that we wanted to be involved,” said Anita Bhatia, executive director of The Ramesh and Kalpana Bhatia Family Foundation. “As the mother of a teen with autism, I know firsthand the pathways to professional development for neurodiverse individuals is limited. We anticipate our grant will give the Friendship Campus the tools they need to help teens and young adults find their lifelong passion in a setting that is as unique as each individual student.”
The new Friendship Campus is expected to be completed in fall 2024 at a cost of $40 million. With this recent donation from The Bhatia Family Foundation, $36.5 million of the budget has been committed from private funding including Founding Donor Greenberg Family/Skechers; Legacy Donor Harris & Linda Toibb; Founders Circle Donors Ted & Claudette Schwartz and Josef & Chana Malka Gorowitz; and Visionary Donors: Jon & Nicole Hirschberg, Mike & Rose Kaplan; Dr. Miriam & Dr. Ben Landau; Paul & Georgia Solomon; and Margaret Haueisen.
The Ramesh and Kalpana Bhatia Family Foundation, founded in 2006, is a private family foundation established by Ramesh and Kalpana Bhatia. The Foundation is dedicated to making an impactful change around the world by funding innovative solutions and programs that enrich communities and serve the common good. The Foundation’s grant making focuses on local, national, and international organizations that support medical and healthcare research, education, mental health, intellectual and physical diversities, human rights and social justice, women and girls’ empowerment, and emergency responses.
In addition to the Friendship Foundation partnership, over the past year, the Bhatia Family Foundation has supported many other programs that support neurodiverse and physical diversities. A $1 million gift to Ability Connection in Dallas in 2020 funds a group house for individuals with varying needs, which is scheduled to be completed in 2023.
In April 2021, it committed a 3-year investment for two programs, NEXT Gen Connect and NEXT for DEI Disability Inclusion in the Workplace.
The Friendship Foundation is dedicated to building an integrated, accepting and unified community for our children and young adults. It was founded 15 years ago by Yossi Mintz with the goal of providing neurodiverse children with those with varying abilities the same advantages as their peers to enjoy and experience life. The organization has developed programs that allow all children to play, grow, develop and thrive together. The success and growing demand from the Foundation’s existing programs have expanded the vision to include an innovative new campus centered around turning special needs into special contributions to society.
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