FEATURE STORY: THE DAILY BREEZE
Friendship Foundation receives $5 million grant for new Redondo Beach campus
Rendering of the future Friendship Campus in Redondo Beach. (photo courtesy of Gensler)
By MICHAEL HIXON | email@example.com | The Beach Reporter
PUBLISHED: October 16, 2021 at 6:00 a.m. | The Friendship Foundation, a nonprofit that helps young adults with special needs, recently received a $5 million grant for a vocational training center it is developing on 3.25 acres in Redondo Beach.
The grant from the Ramesh and Kalpana Bhatia Family Foundation will help the Friendship Foundation nearly reach its goal of $40 million in private donations for its new campus and related programming. The campus is expected to open in 2024. So far, the foundation has raised $36.5 million for the Friendship Campus.
The Friendship Foundation was founded more than 15 years ago by Rabbi Yossi Mintz and the Jewish Community Center Chabad of the South Bay. Since its founding, the Friendship Foundation has operated out of school and community facilities.
The new campus, which will train special needs young adults to enter the workforce, will be its first permanent home.
The Bhatia grant will mostly help fund job training courses that will “enhance the possibilities and opportunities for kids to become a part of the tapestry in the workforce of our great country,” Mintz said in a Thursday, Oct. 14, phone interview. But some of the money will also go toward ensuring the campus has the needed infrastructure to make those courses accessible and available, Mintz said.
“This is truly a miracle,” Mintz said. “They found us. They read up about what we are doing and they really want to make a difference.”
Originally, the fundraising goal for Friendship Campus was $36 million. But, Mintz said, a size increase, design costs and the rising cost of construction have increased the goal to $40 million.
Other major donors to the project include $10 million from the Greenberg Family/Skechers and $5 million from Harris and Linda Toibb.
The campus, 850 S. Inglewood Ave., will feature a 64,000-square-foot facility that will include a mentoring program, recreation center and a state-of-the art studio with training in digital media, visual arts and music.
Mandi Blue, manager for the Bhatia Family Foundation, said what the Friendship Foundation is doing is incredible.
“When you learn a little bit more about the fact that when these kids get older, there really isn’t a lot of options for them as far as secondary school, college,” Blue said. “It’s heartbreaking.”
Part of the campus will be named the Bhatia College for Professional Development, Blue said. It will focus on vocational programs for students after they’ve graduated high school, from culinary arts programs to learning about the restaurant industry.
“There’s gonna be a wide variety of different vocational courses that these kids can take as they kind of figure out what their path is,” Blue said, “what they’re passionate about, where their skills are.”
The Ramesh and Kalpana Bhatia Family Foundation was founded in 2006. The private foundation grants money to local and international organizations that focus on everything from medical and health research to women’s and girl’s empowerment.
“As the mother of a teen with autism, I know firsthand the pathways to professional development for neurodiverse individuals is limited,” Anita Bhatia, executive director of the Bhatia Family Foundation, said in a press release. “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 Friendship Foundation, meanwhile, is also in the beginning stages of working with Kinecta Federal Credit Union to create financial literacy classes, Mintz said, which could potentially lead to a job at one of the company’s locations.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for young adults,” Mintz said. “We could train them and give them opportunities to work with these companies.”
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