Friendship Community Care, presently located on University Drive, has served children and adults with disabilities, behavioral health, and complex support needs since 1972. Most River Valley residents are familiar with Friendship either through a friend, acquaintance, or family member who has received services, or as one of its more than 1,600 employees. Comprised of 54 facilities state-wide, Friendship offers its more than 2,000 clients services such as therapy, pediatrics, nursing, behavioral health services, job training, transportation and Special Olympics.
Many people, however, aren’t familiar with Friendship Foundation, formed in 2019, with the purpose of securing philanthropic and voluntary resources for Friendship Community Care. Friendship Foundation’s new separate location recently celebrated its grand opening in a renovated historic building on the corner of South Boulder and West Main in downtown Russellville.
“We moved downtown because we view this as ‘Russellville,’” Executive Vice President Michael Hutchison says. “We could have moved anywhere in the state, but we feel this is our home. Where there are great businesses, great schools and great non-profits, you have great communities, and we want to be a part of that. We’ve been committed to service to the community for 50 years, and we’ll be committed for the next 50 years.”
CEO of Friendship Community Care Craig Cloud works closely with Hutchison. Hutchison explains. “I work at a strategic level with Craig to see which projects we can raise funds for. We don’t have day-to-day interaction, but are keenly aware of what the other is doing. It’s not just about raising money. It’s about impacting lives. You can’t separate those or there’s no passion for what we do.”
Guided by a 13-member board of directors, Hutchison and the Foundation have raised more than $300,000 since the foundation’s inception for the Living Learning Center for Autism, scheduled to open in March. “Autism is a key factor of focus and a crucial issue for us as an organization,” Hutchison says. “There’s not enough funding and services.”
The center consists of two newly renovated homes designed to house and teach eight autistic adults how to live more independently. It also features a day-use therapeutic site for up to 50 autistic high school students and/or adults at a time.
Hutchison says this was a pilot program in Russellville that they plan to replicate throughout the state in coming years. “We want to ensure long term sustainability,” Hutchison says. “We don’t want to grow the fastest, but the best. We want to be certain we can replicate it at a high level.”
Support is also provided for employees during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “We can’t leave our clients, and without our employees we can’t do what we do,” Hutchison says, “so the foundation provided 121 gift cards to help those impacted by COVID and installed 13 foggers for Friendship facilities with a $25,000 relief fund.”
Amidst the challenges of 2020, Friendship Community Care and Foundation have continued to work together to care for the needs of their clients and build a better community. Next time you are in downtown Russellville, driving or strolling down Main, stop by or think about checking their website. Learn how you can help them build a better community for all.