Mychal’s Learning Place – Seeing Opportunity in Developmental Challenges
When Grandpoint Bank’s Senior Vice President Ed Myska was asked to be on the board of Mychal’s Learning Place, he thought, ‘oh no, not another board position.’ Three years of board membership later, Ed raves about the work, leadership and vision of Mychal’s, as well as its founder, Ed Lynch, whom he credits and jokingly blames for convincing him to join the board.
Ed Myska says Mychal’s Learning Place has a fantastic, cohesive board that really cares about the students who are served and a skilled leader in board chair Suzanne Curtin. “I had a vision to start Mychal’s,” said Ed Lynch, “but you have to surround yourself with people who can make it happen.”
Ed Lynch founded Mychal’s Learning Place after losing his daughter, Mychal, who had physical and developmental challenges. Mychal was the light of Ed’s life, but one thing he could not give her was a program where she could have access to the same friendships, skills development and independence that so many people take for granted. Sadly, Ed never found somewhere he was comfortable leaving Mychal to spend time.
After Mychal passed, Ed devoted his life’s work to creating a place where individuals with developmental disabilities could fit in; a place that’s nurturing and caring and doesn’t see the disability. Now with two locations and more than 100 individuals enrolled in the learning centers’ programs, Mychal’s Learning Place has a sizable waiting list for its services. While the will and vision exist to offer resources to everyone, the organization is hampered only by the lack of funding necessary to expand.
“We receive 60 percent of our funding from the State of California,” said Ed Lynch, “but the rest comes from donors and our fundraising events.”
Next up for Mychal’s fundraiser events is the annual poker tournament on the evening of October 17. Anyone can participate in the tournament, which is held at Mychal’s Hawthorne facility and is expected to attract approximately 80 to 90 players trying to outwit and outplay each other for a good cause. Mychal’s Learning Place art show on December 5 is another popular fundraiser.
While the kindness of friends and strangers is tremendously important to rounding out the Mychal’s Learning Place budget, Ed Lynch and his board got creative in finding a way to generate additional revenue for the organization while also helping to fulfill part of its mission: to teach useful life skills to the students enrolled in its programs. This is how Kitty Perch was born.
After securing help from a professional designer who volunteered his time to refine the design of Kitty Perch and securing donations for plywood and carpet, Mychal’s Learning Place was able to integrate Kitty Perch – a double-platform climbing and clawing structure for cats – into its life skills classes. Students at Mychal’s learn a marketable skill in constructing and packaging the Kitty Perches, and the revenues help fund programs at Mychal’s.
People living in the Los Angeles environs might want to follow Mychal’s Learning Place’s Facebook page to be among the first to see and track the soon-to-debut mobile coffee cart – made from a transformed VW bus. The coffee cart, which will travel to farmer’s markets, festivals, parks and more, will be staffed by two shifts of developmentally-challenged students from Mychal’s Learning Center, seven days a week, creating eight to 14 jobs.
The Mychal’s Learning Place founder envisions a world where developmentally disabled people are fully integrated into the community and workforce. At Mychal’s Learning Place, students ranging from school age to 30 learn useful life and employment skills like cooking, shopping, navigating transportation systems, managing finances, computing and more. Students even have access to job placement services.
A parent of one of Mychal’s Learning Place’s students supplied the following testimonial:
“All of these activities are doors that have opened to my son that are normally closed to special needs kids. What is even better, his mom and dad aren’t taking him to all of these places and hovering over him, which gives him the sense of independence teens of any ability crave and need.”
Services at Mychal’s Learning Place are provided free of charge to the students. “Probably 80 to 90 percent of our students’ families wouldn’t be able to afford these services,” said Ed Lynch. “It’s so important for all of our students to have access to our program, because too many developmentally-challenged people just sit in front of the television for lack of other resources instead of having the chance to become the independent people they want to and can be.”
With help from a Grandpoint Bank loan, Mychal’s Learning Place has a permanent 10,000-square-foot facility in Hawthorne, complete with a gym, music room, art studio, kitchen and more. Ed Lynch and his board hope to find a permanent home for their Culver City facility as well, which is currently housed in space rented from a church.
Both Eds feel like their work with Mychal’s is “incredibly gratifying.” Ed Lynch says that he and his board are committed to solidifying the legacy of the Mychal’s Learning Place family and making sure it’s available to many generations of students to come.
As for our Ed Myska, well, he says that when it comes to fundraising and board member recruitment, he’s good at getting people to say yes.
If you want to make the Eds’ jobs a bit easier, you can find out how to donate or get involved with Mychal’s Learning Place here.
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