Haven of Hope Villa Esperanza Leaps Into the Future with $11 Million New Facilities Groundbreaking

Published : Wednesday, October 4, 2017 | 5:47 AM

A haven of hope on Villa Street leapt ahead in its mission to help developmentally disabled children as supporters and staff came together on Tuesday to break ground on a transformative $11 million construction project.

Started by loving mothers who refused to give up on their children’s futures, Villa Esperanza has operated for 56 years across a cobbled-together campus which patched together donated houses and storefronts along Villa Street between North Oak and North Craig Avenues.

Several years ago, said Executive Director Kelly White, the Board of Directors realized in order for Villa to continue for another 50 years “we would need to envision a new school campus.”

“The facilities in the school are much older than we are!” said Executive Director Kelly White. “For those that we serve, it needed to be done. You can only band aid things so much.”

The bold plan submitted and approved by the Pasadena City Council spans 15 years of development in phases which, in the end, will utterly recreate Villa Esperanza.

The first phase (already underway, technically, as some old structures were already razed) should be completed by August, 2017, White said.

“This phase will give us seven new classrooms, two retreat gardens, a lunch room, and a multipurpose area,” she said. “We’ve been very successful in reaching about 90% of our first year [fundraising] goal.”

White said Villa Esperanza expects to be able to increase enrollment of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities from the current 85 to 125. Services provided by the nonprofit school are in “such high demand right now, with one in every 68 children diagnosed with autism — which is literally our niche.”

Most of the children (as much as 85 percent, White estimates) are nonverbal.

“They come to us through 26 different school districts. The reason they come to us is because a school district isn’t necessarily equipped to handle how involved our children are. Some have multiple diagnoses and disabilities,” White said.

Villa Esperanza Services has been at the forefront of creating programs to give the developmentally disabled the chance to learn, work and play with others. Today, Villa serves school districts in over 41 cities in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.

Villa serves people with a wide variety of disabilities including autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy.

For more about Villa Esperanza, please visit www.villaesperanzaservices.org/default.aspx