A Gym of Memories: The Legacy of the Elkus Family

On a consistent basis, the Florene Elkus & Edward Elkus Memorial Gym is filled with boisterous laughter, the sounds from rubber soles on athletic shoes hitting the waxed wooden floors and the wide array of activities that take place within the well-known walls.

With the coveted gym comes a story that not many may be familiar with. Although there are many who have donated their time and funds to the Friendship Circle, not all of them have as personal of a connection as Philip and Estelle Elkus: the couple who contributed the gym we have all grown to love.

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Named in memory of their siblings, Florene and Edward, the Elkus’ donated the gym in hopes that many would benefit and gain great joy from the athletic addition.

However, Philip struggled as a child having two siblings with special needs–mainly because of the attention and concern his parents had for Florene and Edward’s wellbeing.

“Growing up, and as an adult–[not] until many, many years later, did I begin to understand the trials my parents went through trying desperately to improve the lives of my sister and brother. As a child, I deeply resented all the attention that went in their direction.”

The vast contrast between the services offered now, versus the lack of services offered in the 1930’s and 1940’s, is astounding to Philip, who recalls how individuals with special needs were shut away in an institution, in order to not be seen.

Florene (left) and Edward (right) Elkus

Florene (left) and Edward (right) Elkus

But to see the many programs and services offered in just one location alone for individuals with special needs was completely different from the social norms that existed when Philip Elkus was younger.

“You have absolutely no idea of how much a Friendship Circle could have enriched their lives, nor how much stress and strain it would have removed from my parents. I now have a much deeper appreciation of [my parents’] life long approach and dream to improve their children’s lives.”

It was seeing firsthand the struggles that his parents faced, when it came to helping his siblings, and learning about how much Friendship Circle could have helped his family, that inspired Philip to support and enhance Friendship Circle’s current facilities.

The Elkus Family: Edward, Florene, Nathan, Harriet, Estelle, Philip (left to right)

The Elkus Family: Edward, Florene, Nathan, Harriet, Estelle, Philip (left to right)

Originally, Philip Elkus had hoped to replicate the Friendship Circle in Los Angeles–which is where his siblings were living–after learning about Friendship Circle and touring the facilities in West Bloomfield several years ago. However, investment circumstances barred that dream in becoming a reality.

Philip and Estelle approached the Shemtovs, wanting to know how they could help make a large impact on Friendship Circle and the individuals they help. Together, they decided on stepping forward and creating what is now known as the Florene Elkus & Edward Elkus Memorial Gym.

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“Of all the charities I have ever supported, my wife and I get far more pleasure and “Nachas” from the gym than any other institution. It has made such a wonderful difference to so many and we derive such pleasure seeing it happen.”

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