State-of-the-art Friendship Campus celebrates groundbreaking in Redondo Beach – Daily Breeze | Candle Made Easy

The Friendship Foundation was established 15 years ago with the aim of creating meeting places for people with special needs and to help them enter the world of work and improve their lives on several levels.

To achieve this goal, more than $40 million has been raised for the Friendship Campus, which will celebrate its groundbreaking on Wednesday, August 10th in Redondo Beach.

The campus, due for completion in 2024, is a 64,000-square-foot facility on 3.25 acres. It’s the dream of Yossi Mintz, a founder of the Friendship Foundation, who has received financial support from local individuals and businesses including Skechers. While the foundation has raised $42 million during the pandemic, Mintz said they are about $12 million short. Construction costs have skyrocketed and their initial cost estimates have increased thanks to inflation and COVID-19.

“This building will be a shining example for our community and probably for the whole world,” Mintz said.

The Friendship Campus will feature a creative center focused on life skills and will offer students a state-of-the-art studio offering training in digital media, fine arts including painting and songwriting. The on-campus Culinary Arts Center will train students for careers in the hospitality and culinary industries, and a Financial Empowerment Academy will provide students with financial literacy. A recreation center will also be built on the campus. The campus will emphasize intergenerational mentoring.

Mintz said many of the young adults they work with “have no opportunity to be a part of society,” have not graduated from high school, and most of them are unemployed.

“Many of them are able to leave their mark and have an impact on the world that transforms themselves and their families and society as a whole,” Mintz said. “But there’s never been a means to really showcase their unique gifts and match them with their abilities with the right fit.”

Michael Greenberg, President of Skechers and the Skechers Foundation, has supported the Friendship Foundation since its inception. As one of the largest donors, he is honored with a “subtitle” of the Friendship Campus – The Greenberg Family/Skechers Center.

The Skechers Pier to Pier Friendship Walk was established in 2009 and has since raised more than $13 million for the Friendship Foundation and public education. More than 15,000 people will take part in the Pier to Pier Friendship Walk on October 30, going from the Manhattan Beach Pier to the Hermosa Beach Pier and back.

According to Greenberg, the Friendship Foundation’s programs have helped break down the barrier between people with special needs and others in the community.

“It shows you that if you have a vision and passion and commitment and you have the right support across the community, it can be achieved,” Greenberg said.

Another great impetus for the Friendship Campus came from Michael Zislis, the founder of the Zislis Group. Zislis is a South Bay restaurateur who owns and operates The Shade Hotel in Redondo Beach and Manhattan Beach, The Strand House, and is a partner of The Brews Hall.

Zislis enlisted its award-winning chefs to help build a state-of-the-art kitchen for special needs education at the Friendship Campus Culinary Arts Center, a commercially inspired kitchen but designed with home cooking in mind.

“You had to do it to make it feel like home,” Zislis said. “But also that you could see a teacher and had to design it in a way that it was safe so kids weren’t crossing hot pots with other kids.”

The Friendship campus will focus on vocational training and will offer a Redondo Beach Unified School District (RBUSD) transition program and will be home to more than 50 programs catering to a wide range of ages 8+ and 30+.

The Friendship Foundation will also connect special needs students with their general education peers through the Friendship Club, which began at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach. According to its website, the program is now being run at 40 schools in 14 school districts in the South Bay and Los Angeles area. The aim is to build friendships between the students through fun events such as pizza parties or dance classes.

Mintz said thousands of volunteers are helping people with special needs, but those volunteers are also benefiting themselves.

“They become better people through the process, and that’s really amazing,” Mintz said.

According to Mintz, the credit union Kinecta has partnered with them to develop the Financial Empowerment Academy, which will include a curriculum that will provide “real life experience” when it comes to understanding and managing money.

“If we’re going to work on training them professionally, they also need to know how to manage their money,” Mintz said.

Kelly Stroman, executive director of the Friendship Foundation, said they will work with business partners to develop a “360 degree model of curriculum, training, coaching, mediation and coaching.”

“You can train your employees for specific tasks — data entry, security, surveillance, whatever — but once they’re integrated into a company, the company needs to know how to work with those employees when they’re there,” said Power on.

The groundbreaking for the Friendship Campus will be on August 10 at 5 p.m. at 850 S. Inglewood Ave. in Redondo Beach – the former site of the Franklin School. The ceremony, which ends at 6:00 p.m., will be followed by a Community Summer Festival from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m

The ceremony will feature music and performances by students and volunteers from the Friendship Foundation and RBUSD, as well as an overview of the new campus. The festival that follows will be held at Franklin Park, 807 S. Inglewood Ave. and will include food, entertainment, magicians and children’s activities.

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