Partners in Positive Change: Villa and Community Conscience are Meeting a Growing Need

The following article is from Villa Esperanza‘s Chirp Newsletter, Spring 2018.

At first glance, the two-story building at 80 E. Hillcrest Drive in Thousand Oaks may seem like an unassuming office complex. In fact, within these walls a groundbreaking exercise in social change has been underway for thirty years and counting—this building is home to Community Conscience, a non-profit that offers rent-free space to non-profit social service organizations.

Founded in 1981, Community Conscience grew as a result of a grassroots effort on the part of concerned community members. “At that time we had tax reform, budget cuts, and funding was being affected,” explains Robin Britt, Community Conscience Executive Director. “Our founders said these charities are going to have to close their doors, and what is going to happen to the clients?” As a result of the community’s efforts, the idea of a rent-free space for social service organizations became reality—social service organizations like Villa Esperanza Services, which has been a proud tenant since 2009.

“Villa has the happiest clients in the entire building,” shares Britt. “You complete us—it’s a very successful relationship!” As a Community Conscience tenant, Villa’s West Region office saves between $40,000 to $50,000 each year that would otherwise be spent on rent. Another great benefit of Community Conscience’s building is that it functions as a one-stop shop for Villa’s clients and other vulnerable community members.

Irene Racius, Villa’s Manager of Residential Services, West Region, explains, “Ventura County Human Services is located right across the hall from us. It’s really convenient for our clients because they can get MediCal, sign-up for CalFresh or take advantage of the job center. We had clients who were unable to pay electricity bills and Lutheran Social Services assisted them—there are many partnerships going on each day.” Indeed, for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), access to healthcare, employment, and educational opportunities remains a challenge, and service organizations within the building function as allies to address these concerns. “We meet with tenants bimonthly and have a round table discussion where we talk about what their needs are,” Robin Britt explains.

It was during one such round table that fellow tenant Fit 4 The Cause (F4TC), a nonprofit providing fitness and nutrition training for low-income communities, first explored a partnership with Villa’s Community Integration Program (CIP). CIP gives adults with I/DD valuable prevocational experience and independent living skills training, and F4TC’s therapeutic exercise program offered an enriching opportunity for Villa’s CIP participants. After discussing the possibilities, F4TC team members choreographed and designed Move-Dance-Breathe class exclusively for CIP. The class combines cardio, strength, and yoga-inspired cool-downs, and Villa’s clients have greatly enjoyed their customized fitness program. This is just one example of the life changing partnerships unfolding at 80 E. Hillcrest Drive each and every day. Villa remains a proud ally in Community Conscience’s inspiring mission to maximize coordination among service agencies while addressing the needs of our most vulnerable citizens.

Fit 4 The Cause and Villa team up to get fit! Each week they offer a Move-Dance-Breathe class tailored specifically for clients attending Villa Esperanza Services. Thank you Community Conscience for connecting our community

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Each month Community Conscience spotlights one of the 13 human services agencies who operate rent-free in our 22,000 square-foot building. Those agencies serve 50,000 people annually, and we want to share their stories. Subscribe to our newsletter to have their stories delivered to your inbox.