Press Release (ePRNews.com) - CULVER CITY, Calif. - Jun 23, 2017 - Exceptional Children’s Foundation (ECF) has renovated a 28,000-square-foot warehouse in the City of Inglewood into an employment services center for adults with developmental disabilities. Located at 420 E. Hyde Park Boulevard at Centinela Avenue, ECF invested over $10 million to transform the previously vacant site into the Exceptional Building: a one-stop-shop where adults with developmental disabilities can develop the specialized skills they need to effectively compete in the local job market.
This is the first time the nonprofit, which operates 15 sites across Los Angeles, has operated a site in Inglewood. To introduce the organization to its new neighbors, community leaders and regional policy makers, ECF is hosting an Open House on Tuesday, June 27 from 3:30-6:30 p.m. Details are available at http://www.ECF.net/OpenHouse.
ECF was established in 1946 by a group of parents and community activists who sought to establish a day training program as an alternative to institutional care for individuals with developmental disabilities. Over the years, the nonprofit has expanded its services to meet the changing needs of its target population. Today, the agency operates intervention programs for infants and toddlers, a K-12 school and a comprehensive Mental Health Program for youth and residential, work and day programs for adults. What began as a small day program has grown into a multi-service agency with a $25 million operating budget that assists 3,600 clients and their families annually. ECF is now the only organization of its kind in California to provide a lifespan of services for people with developmental disabilities.
ECF’s investment in the Exceptional Building was a result of years of strategic planning. The past decade brought significant growth – and challenges – to ECF. While the nonprofit doubled its operating budget and increased service levels by 30%, the level of public funding for people with developmental disabilities remained relatively unchanged. Additionally, a slow-moving economic recovery translated into increased competition for private philanthropy. ECF promptly streamlined its staffing and its budget, but the accrual of short-term debt became necessary. The organization’s leadership recognized the need to develop new, non-public revenue streams that could significantly support annual operating costs.
In 2013, a Business Task Force was created to help identify potential new revenue streams that could contribute to operations while benefitting ECF participants. One of their recommendations was to consider the leveraging or selling of assets. ECF’s Board of Directors determined that the property at 8740 Washington Boulevard in Culver City – which housed its headquarters and several adult programs – was a strong choice to sell. The value of the 44,000-square-foot property, located across from the Helms Bakery District, had increased significantly since ECF purchased it in 1985 due to development of the neighboring Downtown and the opening of the Culver City Station for Metro’s Expo Light Rail. After months of analysis and discussion, ECF’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to sell.
In April of 2015, ECF sold the 8740 Washington Boulevard property to Brentwood-based Karney Properties Company. Proceeds were used to strengthen ECF’s financial position by (a) paying off two mortgages for ECF-owned program sites, along with short-term debt and several operational obligations, (b) renovating its Kayne Eras Center to become ECF’s new headquarters, (c) purchasing and renovating a new program service site in the City of Inglewood, and (d) investing $5 million in ECF’s endowment.
Finding a property of similar size and accessibility to its Washington Boulevard site within budget proved to be a challenge in the tight local real estate market, so the Board decided to relocate ECF’s headquarters and programs separately. The administrative offices were moved 1.5 miles south to the Kayne Eras Center, where ECF operates a K-12 school for students with special needs and a Mental Health Services program. Because ECF did not own a property with the capacity toaccommodate the adult programs being relocated, the 420 E. Hyde Park Boulevard property was purchased – selected in large part based on the City of Inglewood’s community and economic development plans at the time, which included the strong possibility of building a mixed-use community and NFL stadium on the site of the former Hollywood Park. ECF closed escrow on the property two weeks before the Rams football team officially announced its return to Los Angeles.
The move to Inglewood has been a catalyst for ECF to develop new and expanded services for adults with developmental disabilities – a population that is living longer and increasingly open to accessing services and participating in communal settings. According to the California Department of Developmental Services, there are currently over 317,000 people living with developmental disabilities and the percentage of them utilizing supportive services has increased over 50% during the past 15 years.
At the Exceptional Building, ECF offers training academies to participants, who can choose to learn about warehouse operations, computer literacy, janitorial training, retail services, and soon the culinary arts. Participants can earn a paycheck for the hours they work on packaging and assembly contracts that ECF secures through business partners, attend work readiness classes, and access case management and job placement services.
The Exceptional Building also offers two programs for adults with developmental disabilities to develop their creative and community interaction skills: ECF’s Westside Art Center, which offers participants studio art training and opportunities to exhibit and sell their artwork, and ECF’s Community Connections, which coordinates participants in meaningful volunteer roles in neighboring communities.
“At ECF, we purposefully evolve our services in response to changes in the larger community. The change we see now of businesses diversifying and integrating their workforce is as smart as it is inspiring. This is why ECF has invested in programs that create direct pathways to employment for our clients; to help open doors to a job, to a paycheck and ultimately to greater independence,” says Scott Bowling, ECF’s President and CEO.
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