AN OPEN LETTER FROM LITTLE FRIENDS BOARD CHAIRMAN, TOM CONNORS:
At Little Friends, every one of the people and their families we serve has a right to a fulfilling life of dignity, independence and respect, and we believe that right is universal. We strive to empower people with autism and other developmental disabilities and we actively seek ways for those we serve to thrive in our community every day. This is what we do, this is how we bring value to the communities we serve, and we are proud of our record of accomplishment over the years. For nearly three generations, our Little Friends’ teachers and staff have provided an enriching, educational experience for thousands of children. From mastering basic life skills or studying more traditional academics, our therapeutic environment centers on the complex needs of every child and our programs are highly successful. In fact Krejci Academy was recently recognized by the National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET) as a School of Excellence.
We are proud of the work performed by our award-winning teachers/staff, but what is more poignant is how our students achieve academically despite challenges associated with our aging facilities. The newest building on our campus is nearly 80 years old and our buildings are showing their age. For our staff to continue to support the increasing needs of those we proudly serve, a change in location is necessary, and that new opportunity presented itself last year.
Starting in Spring 2018, our CEO Mikel Briggs was approached with an opportunity to relocate Krejci Academy, the Mansion High School, and our administrative offices to a different location. The move would be to a location less than three miles away from our current location that is currently occupied by the Edward Elmhurst Healthcare Sleep Center and Administrative Operations in Warrenville. These conversations continued for nearly six months as the owners deliberated about the sale of the property to Little Friends.
Relocation to a larger facility with newer amenities would be cause for much celebration. We currently occupy 50,000 sq. ft. across four different buildings. Our new facility is more than 74,000 sq. ft., which allows us to consolidate key elements of our operation under one roof. Second, the agency has witnessed increases in the number of people who seek our resources and we are approaching capacity limitations. Third, the facility is close to I-88, providing a more convenient route for more than 40 school districts that transport students to our campus each day. Fourth, the move aligns with our mission and the agency’s strategic intentions by focusing more of our resources on programs and services in place of deteriorating building infrastructures. And finally, each of our current buildings is three to four stories in height and this represents challenges for our staff to accommodate students who possess more significant needs. In fact, there isn’t an elevator on the entire Naperville campus. The new location is housed on one floor, which allows our agency to be ADA-compliant. Our motto is fulfilling lives regardless of challenge and a newer location allows us to fulfill that bold promise.
At our October 2018 Board of Directors meeting, we granted our CEO the authority to contact representatives from North Central College about the sale of our property. They have maintained interest in acquiring the land as defined by their Master Land Use Plan submitted to the City of Naperville years ago. We negotiated the terms of the agreement in November 2018 and we signed an agreement to sell the property in December 2018.
On behalf of the Little Friends Board of Directors, I welcome the chance to share more why this move is key to our continued success as an agency in the coming years. Thank you for your consideration.
For the Agency,
Tom Connors, Little Friends Board Chairman