Easterseals to discontinue several programs, focus on core services

Driven by changing nonprofit funding landscape

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Easterseals Southeast Wisconsin plans to discontinue several of its services to focus on its core programs, a decision driven in part by changes to the nonprofit funding landscape.

Peter Engel

Peter Engel, president and chief executive officer of Easterseals, said the West Allis-based nonprofit will no longer offer some of its community employment services, its autism services and a program that provides lawn care services training and employment for adults with disabilities.

The programming change, which will take effect in April, will allow the organization to devote resources to its core services, Engel said. Those include: adult day services, care management, guardianship, individual placement support, Project SEARCH, adult recreation and summer camps and Safe Babies Healthy Families.

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Engel said Easterseals is working with those who are affected to “secure appropriate programming with other providers” and help affected employees.

“These decisions are always difficult,” Engel said in the announcement. “They stem in part from dramatic changes in the funding landscape for nonprofit organizations like Easterseals. To remain a leading organization in the community, we must embrace change and ask ourselves what we can do to make Easterseals Southeast Wisconsin a stronger organization that will positively impact the lives of people with disabilities and their families long into the future.”

Moving forward, the organization will focus on bolstering its partnerships with other nonprofit organizations, increasing new corporate sponsors and leveraging more sophisticated donor development efforts, Engel said.

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Engel, a former Johnson Financial Group executive, joined Easterseals in June 2018 as president and chief executive officer.

Following a program review process, he announced in December the organization was ending its pre-vocational training services due to reductions in Medicare & Medicaid Services funding, and discontinuing its LilyWorks catering program.

Both were located at Easterseals’ training center in Waukesha, which underwent a $1.1 million renovation in 2014 to accommodate the training services. The project included installing an adaptive commercial training and catering kitchen, which served as a training ground for people with disabilities to enter the hospitality industry, along with a video-equipped chef demonstration area, a banquet facility and conference room and a technology lab.

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The organization no longer occupies the 50,000-square-foot space at 505 Northview Road, which it had leased.

Easterseals has been involved in a series of acquisitions over the past 15 years. In 2005, it joined with Kind Care Inc. and with Waukesha Training Center in 2010. In 2016, Easterseals merged with Waukesha-based Safe Babies Healthy Families.

Easterseals served more than 12,000 people in southeastern Wisconsin through direct care, education and interventions last year, with 150 individuals being placed in competitive employment positions.

Representatives with Easterseals could not be reached for comment Monday.

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