Easter Seals Southeast Wisconsin is bolstering its mission with the opening of its revamped training center in Waukesha – a 50,000-square-foot space that acts as a hub for its workforce development programs.
The West Allis-based nonprofit, which ensures people with disabilities have equal opportunities to work and thrive in their communities, opened its redesigned center with public tours and a ribbon cutting ceremony on Wednesday.
The festivities were attended by several public officials, including Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Waukesha County executive Dan Vrakas.
Renovations within the center totaled $1.1 million with construction completed by MSI General from spring through early July.
The reimagined center, located at 505 Northview Rd., now holds an adaptive commercial training and catering kitchen, the first of its kind for Easter Seals and the only handicap-accessible kitchen of its kind in Waukesha County, the organization said.
The kitchen serves as a training ground for people with disabilities who are interested in jumpstarting a career in the hospitality industry. Many of those trainees belong to LilyWorks Catering, a catering company branded under Easter Seals that prepares food for contracted community and corporate events as well as staffs each event.
Along with the commercial kitchen, the redeveloped center has two clean rooms designated for food product processing, handling and packaging and the production of Easter Seals LilyBrew private label coffee. These spaces can be leased to individuals and businesses in need of a commercial kitchen setting for cooking demonstrations and classes or the production of their own private label goods.
Adjacent to the kitchen is a video equipped chef demonstration area, also leasable to the public, where the nonprofit will host daily living skills classes focused on meal preparation.
Additionally, the renovated space features a banquet facility and conference room that can hold up to 125 people and an adaptive technology lab with 26 computer stations.
The banquet facility will host many of the nonprofit organization’s events and will also function as an event venue for area companies and community organizations. Easter Seals welcomes outside entities to rent its space for breakfasts, luncheons, trainings, meetings and events with customers.
“This is a real conference center where you will get the best treatment, the best hospitality and the best service,” said Bob Glowacki, president and CEO of the nonprofit.
Within the adaptive technology lab, Easter Seals will train its clients in resume writing, job searching, career coaching and other skill building exercises toward the pursuit of employment.
The lab space will also be available for companies and organizations to lease for large-scale training courses and events.
The new site is further enhanced by a renovated room to house the nonprofit’s Career Connect program, a prevocational program that places clients in community workplace settings to groom critical job skills.
Prior to the upgrades at the Waukesha training center, which Easter Seals has occupied since fall of 2010, much of the building was consumed by warehouse space, Glowacki said.
The renovations are essential in helping the organization expand its mission and its revenue streams so that it can be less dependent on philanthropic and government resources, Glowacki said.
The new site also aims to foster a more inclusive workforce in southeastern Wisconsin.
“You cannot underestimate what it means that when people come here they are being served by individuals with disabilities,” Glowacki said. “It breaks down stereotypes…It opens up (people’s) eyes to the potential for including people with disabilities in their workforce.”
Easter Seals has raised about $800,000 for the $1.1 million project, which was financed by PNC Bank. The organization plans to continue fundraising with a matching grant program through the end of the year.