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Friendship Campus Receives $5 Million Grant

Oct 14, 2021 11:01AM ● By Jeanne Fratello
The Friendship Foundation has received a $5 million grant from the Ramesh and Kalpana Bhatia Family Foundation for its new Friendship Campus.

The grant will be used to create an innovative program for postsecondary students who are intellectually and physically diverse. The program will be the cornerstone of a new 3.25-acre state-of-the-art Friendship Foundation education campus expected to be completed in 2024 in Redondo Beach.

The new campus is designed to give individuals with physical and intellectual diversities the tools to transform the workforce and find a lifelong passion and purpose. The demand for such a resource is expected to be intense: Almost 200,000 students are enrolled in special education in Los Angeles County alone and 8 in 10 Americans with disabilities are unemployed.

At the campus, 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, in a statement. “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.”

This partnership marks the Bhatia Family Foundation’s first major grant in the Los Angeles area.

“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, in a statement. “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.”

Campus To Provide Postsecondary Training


The Friendship Foundation campus will include a 64,000 square foot facility to develop an engaging and inviting environment for the entire community. Organizers 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, and 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, and game design; visual arts such as painting, photography, and filmmaking; craftwork such as woodwork and jewelry making; and music such as songwriting, audio production and music mixing. The culinary arts department will feature a Friendship Café and Teaching Kitchen to give students hands-on learning experience for training in hospitality and culinary industry careers.

(Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Kelly Stroman has announced that she is stepping down from the chamber later this month to take on a new role as managing director of the new Friendship Foundation campus.)

The new Friendship Campus is expected to cost $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 and Linda Toibb; Founders Circle Donors Ted and Claudette Schwartz and Josef and Chana Malka Gorowitz; and Visionary Donors: Jon and Nicole Hirschberg, Mike and Rose Kaplan, Dr. Miriam and Dr. Ben Landau, Paul and Georgia Solomon, and Margaret Haueisen. To see a full list of donors, participate or learn more, please visit Friendship Campus (friendshipfoundation.com).


Foundations Work to Enrich Educational Opportunities


The Friendship Foundation is dedicated to building an integrated, accepting and unified community for 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 Friendship Foundation’s existing programs have expanded the vision to include a new campus centered around turning special needs into special contributions to society.

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 & healthcare research, education, mental health, intellectual and physical diversities, human rights & social justice, women & girls’ empowerment, and emergency responses.


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