Making a difference in the lives of youth with special needs!

About Us - The Friendship Foundation

About Us

Changing the world one friendship at a time.

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The Friendship Foundation supports parents and families who have children and young adults with special needs by providing a safe, accepting and inclusive environment where they can enjoy sports, art, music and many other social programs with their peers. Our friendly staff and helpful volunteers create a fun experience for all. It is our belief that every person is precious and capable of love, connection and friendship.

Programs are targeted to specific age groups while some encompass a broad gathering of all ages including parents.At each program, children with special needs are paired with student volunteers for an event full of fun peer interaction. The Friendship Foundation serves to augment our local educational systems and professional therapies by creating a natural setting for individuals with special needs to practice their learned skills amongst their peers.

M

Our Mission

The Friendship Foundation provides socially integrated programs to empower individuals with developmental disabilities to build friendship, independence, and live purposeful lives as active members of their community.

C

Core Values

Foster Acceptance.
Break Boundaries.
Be Dedicated.
Have Fun.

V

Our Vision

All individuals with special needs will be socially integrated into their community and live purposeful lives.

Our History

We started out with 8 children with special needs and 22 teen volunteers, meeting once per month on a Sunday afternoon in Manhattan Beach. At each “Sunday Circle," our group would gather to hang out and socialize while playing games, singing songs and enjoying a variety of interactive entertainment. Soon thereafter, a few of our 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 High School. 36 Friendship School Clubs exist today throughout the South Bay at elementary, middle, and high school levels in public, private, and charter schools. In addition to the Friendship School Clubs, we offer social and recreational programs 6 days per week, year-round. Our services reach 1800 students annually.

The Friendship Foundation Strives To...

Bring happiness and companionship to children with special needs in a way that celebrates their uniqueness and individuality through participation in age appropriate athletic, arts and music, and social-recreational activities with their peers

Build leadership skills and foster the values of altruism, volunteerism and sacrifice among student volunteers

Impart renewed strength, comfort and peace of mind to the parents of these special children

Heighten the community’s awareness, sensitivity and sense of responsibility with regard to responding to these vital needs

Quick Facts

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Year History

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Programs & Activities

Friendship School Clubs

Students Involved

Testimonials

"When I started volunteering four and a half years ago I was a shy, quiet and nervous kid. With the helpful tips from other volunteers combined with the participants' special spark and energy, I slowly came out of my shell. I learned to make new friends and felt so good inside when I was able to make others happy. Their smiles motivate me to keep coming back again and again. Through the friendly and positive environment, I've grown into a more mature, responsible and aware person. I love being a volunteer at the Friendship Foundation."
Erick Cerda, Volunteer
"I adore the Friendship Foundation because of the connection my children receive from the volunteers. They feel included instead of ostracized which is important in our lives. Knowing how much they look forward to the activities that the Friendship Foundation provides keeps me uplifted in spirit!"
Cherrone Davis, Parent

Meet Our Team

Executive Director
Yossi Mintz
Yossi is the founder of the Friendship Foundation (formerly The Friendship Circle). Through his leadership, the organization has gone from serving 30 youth to serving over 1800 youth annually. He continues to drive the vision of this organization to new heights. Yossi enjoys hiking, running, being a father, and is a skilled ping pong player.
yossi@friendshipfoundation.com
Managing Director
Nina Patel
Nina brings her years of experience in non-profit fundraising and leadership to our organization. She served as the President of the Manhattan Beach Education Foundation Board of Directors for three years and two years as the Vice President of Fundraising. Prior to that she owned and operated a specialty card and stationery business for three years. She sold the business to raise a family and has three sons, Arjun, Jayin and Bhavin. She enjoys tennis, reading, hiking and entertaining friends. 
nina@friendshipfoundation.com
Programs Director
Elyse Ares
Elyse brings her optimistic personality to lead our curriculum and programs.  She is excited to work with families and children to create new and exciting programs at the Friendship Foundation. She has a Masters in Special Education and has worked with the special needs community for 5 years and loves it!  Some of the things she enjoys doing are yoga, DIY projects and adventure seeking.
elyse@friendshipfoundation.com
Program Manager
Brian Gehlbach
Brian graduated from the University of Akron in 2012 with a degree in education. Before moving to California and joining the Friendship Foundation team, Brian taught 8th grade science in Columbia South Carolina. He loves working with kids and is passionate about education. Besides running Community Programs, Brian will be supporting SKECHERS in planning the Pier to Pier Friendship Walk this year. Outside of the office, Brian enjoys live music, sports (specifically Cleveland sports), food and anything outdoors.
brian@friendshipfoundation.com
Program Manager
Shannon Jones
Shannon graduated from University of Oregon with a degree in Family and Human Services where she developed a strong passion to work with the special needs community. Shannon is excited to continue working closely with the Friendship Clubs and Community Programs. She moved to Redondo Beach for some much needed sun and a change of scenery after four years in Oregon. Hiking, running, and anything outdoors are Shannon’s favorite hobbies outside of trying new foods and enjoying beautiful days at the beach.
shannon@friendshipfoundation.com
Office Administrator
Michelle Manzano
Michelle joined the Friendship Foundation as the Office Administrator with a background in Business Marketing and Administration. She is passionate about her Christian Faith and loves connecting with people from all walks of life. Exploring new adventures like hiking, going to the beach and running marathons are activities she enjoys most. Michelle loves to express herself through painting, reading, writing and being around family and friends.
michelle@friendshipfoundation.com

Recreation Leaders

Sylvia Martinez

Shelley Johnson

Michael Holliday

Jonathan Nunez

Jay Stewart

Board Of Directors

Yossi Mintz

Chairman and Executive Director

Adam Carroll

Former Chairman of New Age Electronics

Portia Cohen

Strategic Market Liason for the Chief Strategy Officer at UCLA Health

Josef Gorowitz

President of Prodégé

Edward Kaminsky

Owner of Kaminsky Realty Group

Mike Kaplan

Chairman of Lakeshore Learning

John Pollitt

Pollitt and Pollitt Law Firm

Advisory Board Members

Alyse Zwickel

Former Development Director of the Friendship Foundation

Parent of a child with special needs and volunteer

Lisa Perlot

Parent of Special Needs Child and long-time supporter

Mike Zislis

Entrepreneur-restaurateur-hotelier and CEO of Zislis Group.

Board member of Torrance Memorial Medical Center.

Tom Nguyen

Financial Analyst at Capital Group

Frequently Asked Questions

I have a child with special needs and want to know how she can participate in your programs.

How do I become a volunteer?

Thank you for your interest in our program. We accept volunteers age 8 years and up. First, you will have to fill out the Volunteer Registration Form located on our website under “Get Involved” and then “Volunteer”. Once our office receives this form, we will email you the Programs and Events Newsletter so that you can start signing up for our fun activities. You will also need to attend one of our Volunteer Training Sessions which are offered every other month and we encourage you to read the Volunteer Handbook coming soon to the website. Please call the office to reserve your seat for the volunteer training. The more you familiarize yourself with our organization and the needs of our participants the more successful you will be as a volunteer at the Friendship Foundation. If you have any additional questions, feel free to call our office M-F 9am-5:00pm at 310-214-6677. You can also email us any questions at info@friendshipfoundation.com.

Can siblings come to programs?

Most of our programs are closed to siblings but we do have a few where we welcome sibling participation. Programs like Movie Night and Birthday Club accept sibling participation. We also have family events where siblings can also come along with their parents. Siblings can become volunteers as long as they are older than 8 years old and have a volunteer registration form filled out. 

Are parents allowed to come to programs?

Our programs and events are designed to promote socialization among peers and develop independent living skills. To help us accomplish this goal we do not allow parents to stay during programs. We do offer family social events a couple times a year where parents will have an opportunity to hang out with their child and meet other families. We thank you in advance for your understanding and helping us help your child build social and independent living skills.

Do you provide behaviorists?

We do not provide behaviorists but allow for one on one aides to attend our programs on an as needed basis. Parents cannot substitute as aides for our programs. The Friendship Foundation does not provide behavior therapy because we believe that children need time to practice their social skills in a natural setting. We want to promote independence, socialization and believe in maximizing individual potential.  

How much does a program cost and how do I pay?

The cost for each program and event varies but we try our best to set fees that are reasonable so that most families can participate. We offer two to three free programs a month so that all families can get involved. We accept credit cards, cash and checks.  

What do you do when children demonstrate behaviors?

Our staff is trained on a hands off behavior modification and will do their best to control the behavior without restraining the participant. While we provide a welcoming environment for all different kinds of special needs, if the participant is deemed unsafe to themselves or other participants, volunteers and staff we have the right to refuse participation.

Do you provide scholarships?

Yes, we provide scholarships based on financial need. Please contact our office at (310) 214-6677 to receive our Scholarship Application.

How does my donation help?

The Friendship Foundation relies heavily on the generosity of donors and foundations to continue offering programs 6 days of the week and impact 1800 students annually. More than 80% of your donations go directly to supporting programs. 

What is Club 97?

Club 97 gives the donor an opportunity to contribute $97 per month for twelve months to sponsor a child for an entire school year. You will help one child with special needs participate in activities like art, music, field trips, and other events at no cost to the family. All fees will be waived for their family for all programs and activities their child participates in during the school year. You will open the door for a child to build social skills, have friends, and support their overall development. We believe that you will change the lives of two individuals – yours and one very special child. Please click here to visit our donate page to join Club 97.

Do you accept stocks donations?

Yes, we do. By contributing stocks, you can realize two tax savings. Federal and state tax law permits taxpayers who itemize to deduct the current value of the charitable contribution from their adjusted gross income. To qualify for such a deduction, the stock must have been held by the taxpayer for more than one year. Secondly, you can save on capital gains tax. The contribution of stock may have no tax liability on the difference between the cost of donated stock and its current fair market value.  To learn more please go to the Donate section of our website.

Have Another Question?

Feel free to contact us or stop by our office!
Phone: 310-214-6677
Email: info@friendshipfoundation.com
2108 Vail Avenue
Redondo Beach, CA 90278

Contact Us!

  • Address: 2108 Vail Avenue Redondo Beach, CA 90278
  • Phone: 310-214-6677
  • Email: info@friendshipfoundation.com

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