The Easter Seals of Southeast Wisconsin is celebrating its 80th anniversary with a major planned upgrade to its Waukesha operation.
President and CEO Bob Glowacki said that plans to add a commercial kitchen, clean rooms, expanded banquet facility and technology lab at the Waukesha Workforce Training Center on Northview Road are coming along, and he hopes that's just one of the ways the nonprofit will mark it's 80th birthday.
Workforce Training Center
When Easter Seals merged with the Waukesha Training Center in 2010, Glowacki said the Easter Seals was fortunate to work with an organization that had a 50-year reputation in the community.
"Easter Seals as an organization wanted to help people live, work and play in their community. In Southeastern Wisconsin we didn't yet have that work component, so we felt that our two organizations coming together would be extremely important because it would provide us the outreach we wanted," Glowacki explained.
In 2013, the Workforce Center moved into a large location on Northview Road in Waukesha. In the facility it employs adults with disabilities for tasks ranging from piece work to landscaping, cleaning and maintaining a lunch room in order to gain transferable job skills.
As part of the 80th Jubilee Celebration, Easter Seals plans to complete a $1 million investment in the facility that would include a commercial kitchen that is fully accessible to provide new experiences to those who use those services.
"Unfortunately (the need) hasn't changed for a generation. There's only about 25 percent of people with disabilities and want to work who feel fully employed so there's a huge market to grow beyond that," Glowacki explained. "That's why we're building the kitchen: to give them resources, new opportunities for work, as well as new work experiences and grow our own revenue as an organization."
The kitchen will include two lines for preparation that include one for creating and one for training. It will provide clean rooms to package its current LilyWorks products such as coffee. During off hours, the kitchen could be rented and used by other organizations and individuals.
Food, which is currently made in a small kitchen in downtown Waukesha and trucked to the facility, will be made in house and available for lunchtime as well as larger projects through the LilyWorks Catering program.
Other parts of the expansion include a new, larger lunchroom facility. It also includes refurbishing the current conference rooms to be banquet rooms that can seat 50 to 125 people. A new technology lab will also provide upgraded technology that can be adapted for disabilities and help participants work on resumes and other skills.
Glowacki said about 60 percent of the $1 million goal has been pledged, and the group hopes to begin the building process as early as the end of March. He hopes the additions will provide more competitive job skill training and also bring in community members who can rent out the spaces.
Glowacki said the second part to the celebration is the launch of a capital campaign, not for the brick-and-mortar expansion project but instead to establish a fund that would allow the organization to grow.
"Many folks who give get tired of capital campaigns for brick-and-mortar expansions. Easter Seals has only grown as an organization. Since I've started we've done two mergers, grown our autism services, our adult day services, and we're an $11 million organization," Glowacki said.
Glowacki explained that while the organization is funded in a multifaceted way, the group would like to add what the organization is calling "The Centennial Fund."
This account, which Glowacki said the group hopes to get to $500,000, will allow Easter Seals the flexibility to pursue new programming based on needs as they arise in the community.
"We hope it will be a $500,000 fund that will help to fund our growth so if we see opportunities like Project SEARCH or new projects for veterans we don't have to wait until somebody gives us a grant. We have our own so we can start the program the way it should be started," Glowacki said. "There's always a cost in starting something. When you're already a nonprofit, that stretches your resources even thinner."
Glowacki said that Easter Seals also has the opportunity for a matching grant up to 100,000 toward the campaign for donations made before March 31.
"Those are interested in making a pledge or making a gift then could double the impact of their donation," Glowacki said.
It's not all work, though, for the organization recognizing its jubilee. The nonprofit, with support from the Bartolotta Restaurant Group Care-a-lotta program, will host a celebration in recognition of its history and its growing future March 19 at The Grain Exchange in Milwaukee.
"We're looking forward to it as a reunion. We want to honor all three (organizations), Kind Care, WTC and the history of Easter Seals in one place; and just give us the chance to enjoy what's been built," Glowacki said.
For more information on the various programs Easter Seals offers, how to give to the capital campaign, or about attending the 80th Jubilee event, visit www.easterseals.com/wi-se.
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