A groundbreaking ceremony and celebration for the Friendship Foundation's new Friendship Campus in Redondo Beach drew a crowd of approximately 1,000 people on Wednesday.
The 3.25-acre campus, centered around a state-of-the-art 64,000-square-foot facility, aims to create a multi-faceted center that will offer a full range of postsecondary training for intellectually and physically diverse students.
The Greenberg Family/Skechers Center, as it is being called, is expected to be completed in 2024 at a cost of $55 million. It will serve as the headquarters for Friendship Foundation’s 50-plus programs, as well as for a transition program for the Redondo Beach Unified School District and other postsecondary vocational programs.
Friendship Campus street level view; rendering via Friendship Foundation.
Although the facility itself is located in Redondo Beach, it has deep roots in Manhattan Beach. The Friendship Foundation began in Manhattan Beach, and its lead donors include Skechers and the Greenberg family of Manhattan Beach.
Skechers President Michael Greenberg at the groundbreaking ceremony. Photo via Friendship Foundation.
Wednesday's groundbreaking drew community leaders and families from around the South Bay and beyond for the official ceremony followed by a lively summer festival with music, food, and entertainment.
Student performers at the Friendship Campus groundbreaking ceremony. Photo via Friendship Foundation.
"It’s not a normal groundbreaking, that’s for sure," said Friendship Foundation Managing Director Kelly Stroman, marveling at the hundreds of attendees on a hot summer day. "We’re all kind of just blown away at the level of support and enthusiasm."
Friendship Campus A Long-Held Dream
The idea of the Friendship Campus has been a long-held dream of the Friendship Foundation and its supporters. The brainchild of the Friendship Foundation co-founder
Yossi Mintz, the educational and vocational campus is designed to serve
"the whole individual" with talent and skill building, personal growth
and development programs, social and emotional wellness, healthy
lifestyle habits and physical fitness, and job training and exploration programs.
“This campus groundbreaking is the culmination of years – decades really
– of dreams, plans and a lot of hard work from our team and our amazing
community of supporters and donors,” said Mintz. “We’ve seen
firsthand how capable young adults on the autism spectrum or with other
intellectual or physical differences have very few options for
education and employment after high school. These are smart, capable
individuals who can succeed and have fulfilling careers with the right
training and ongoing support. We hope the Friendship Campus will be a
model that can be duplicated across the country.”
Some of the initial vocational programs planned include technology, media, hospitality, retail, culinary, office, education, trades, and gardening.
Friendship Campus architectural rendering via Friendship Foundation.
A state-of-the-art studio will include training on digital media such as graphic design, coding, and game design. The culinary arts program will include a "Friendship Café" and teaching
kitchen to give students hands-on learning experience for training in hospitality and culinary industry careers.
Additionally, a Financial Empowerment Academy will introduce life-skills financial literacy to use daily and as individuals gaining independence in society.
The programs are essential, said Stroman, because although there are large numbers of students with diverse and special needs in K-12 schools (almost 200,000 students are enrolled in special education in Los Angeles County alone), an estimated 8 in 10 American adults with disabilities are unemployed.
However, noted Stroman, many adults with disabilities have the potential to become "phenomenal" employees. "When trained in the proper workspace, adults with disabilities have a 92 percent retention rate in their jobs," she said.
The campus aims to further integrate the greater community by offering recreational activities such as basketball, volleyball, rock climbing, pickleball, dance, yoga, meditation, martial arts, social programming.
The foundation is also planning to incorporate older adults in a "multigenerational mentoring program" to mentor younger students, encouraging them to use the services offered themselves while providing professional expertise and life experiences.
The project is being privately funded. Aside from the Greenberg family, lead donors include Legacy Donors The Ramesh and Kalpana Bhatia Family Foundation, Harris and Linda Toibb, Mike and Rose Kaplan, Charlie and Jo Ann Kaplan; Founders Circle Donors Ted and Claudette Schwartz and Yosef and Chana Malka Gorowitz; and Visionary Donors Joe and Fay Czyzyk, Margaret and Captain Joe Lee Frank, Jon and Nicole Hirschberg, Joel E. Jacob, Dr. Miriam and Dr. Ben Landau; Yael Roth, Paul and Georgia Solomon, and Windsong Trust; among others.
The center is also offering a "Pathway of Inspiration" option for donors. It includes donation opportunities to personalize pathway bricks, stepping stones, artwork in the entrance, boulders, a concrete walkway, or a learning lab.
Friendship Foundation Beginnings in Manhattan Beach
The Friendship Foundation is a leading nonprofit in the South Bay that serves neurodiverse children and adults. It was founded 15 years ago by Yossi Mintz, Michael Greenberg, and Adam Carroll with the goal of providing neurodiverse children with those with varying abilities the same advantages as their peers to enjoy and experience life.
The foundation began with eight children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, paired with 22 teen
volunteers who met once per month on a Sunday afternoon in Manhattan
Beach. At each “Sunday Circle," the group would gather to hang out and
socialize while playing games, singing songs and enjoying a variety of
Soon thereafter, several of the teens took this
concept to their high schools and established school-sanctioned clubs
at Mira Costa High School, Palos Verdes High School, and Redondo Union
Today, there are more than 36 Friendship School Clubs throughout the
South Bay at elementary, middle, and high school levels in public,
private, and charter schools - and at every school in the Manhattan Beach Unified School District.
In addition to the Friendship School
Clubs, the foundation offers social and recreational programs six days per week,
year-round, serving more than 2,500 students annually.