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5 Things you Need to Know About Walk4Friendship 2016

This year marks our 11th annual Walk4Friendship. We have some exciting new changes this year and these are the things you need to know. Please take a minute to read the following carefully and share this information with your family and friends via email and Facebook.

1. New Location, Same amount of space!

This year, the walk will be starting in the parking lot of the Jewish Community Center at 6600 W. Maple Road and ending at the Farber Center. While Some have expressed concerns that the Farber Center will not have adequate space to hold all walk participants. We can assure you that there will be plenty of room. Please check out the graphic below as it will show the space we will be using at this year’s walk.

2. New Time

Please note that there is a new starting time for the walk. To avoid the mid-day sun and hungry stomachs at the opening ceremony everything will start one hour earlier.

  • 10:30 AM: Registration for the walk begins.
  • 11:30 AM: Opening Ceremonies in the parking lot of the Jewish Community Center.
  • 11:50 AM: Walk4Friendship Begins.
  • 12:00-3:00 PM: Post-Walk entertainment at the Farber Center.

3. New Walk Route

Due to the new location, there will be a new walk route. The new route will depart from the JCC parking lot (north east side) and head north on Drake road for a just shy of a one mile walk to the Farber Center. Due to the new location and for logistical reasons we will not be having a 5K walk route this year. We do hope to bring back the 5K option for future walks.

4. Parking Information

Parking is at the Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital: 6777 West Maple Rd, between Halsted Rd and Drake Rd. Shuttles to the JCC will start at 10am. Be sure to arrive by 10:30am to be assured of an on-time arrival for the walk start (11:50am).

Returning to your cars from the Farber Center

Shuttles will run from the carnival to the parking area at the Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital starting at 12:30pm and running about every 30 minutes until 3pm.

Wheelchair accessible parking

Wheelchair accessible parking will be at the JCC (Drake Parking Lot). Wheelchair accessible shuttles will transport you to the JCC and bring you back to your vehicle after the event.  Only vehicles that have registered for wheelchair accessible parking will be allowed to park at the JCC parking lot. Please visit the Walk4Friendship webpage for specific information on Wheelchair accessible parking.

5. More tents to keep out of the sun

We are preparing for warm weather so you don’t have to sweat out a 90-degree day! We are doubling the amount of tent space available and the Farber Center Banquet Hall will be open as well.


Have questions? Make sure to contact Walk4Friendship Support.

Need to register for Walk4Friendship? Make sure to register at

We have a whole new lineup of new activities for this year’s Walk4Friendship. Visit to check out all of the new activities.

Soul Center Fiber Arts Studio Receives Generous Donation

Opportunity Knocks

Carolyn Sklarchyk has been weaving for over thirty-five years. Her son, Sam, age 24, was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. Since then, her family has been continuously involved with the Friendship Circle. When she learned they were planning to open an art studio alongside a kosher cafe, now the Farber Soul Center, she approached Bassie Shemtov, Co-President of the organization, about teaching weaving to the participants in the art studio. Her son Sam, who began in the painting area of the studio, now works in the cafe.

“Exploration is important.”

Brother Sewing Machine

The majority of Sklarchyk’s students come in with no prior experience in the fiber arts. She gets them right into it, teaching them about different types and colors of yarn, types of looms, and different things they might be able to create. Then she puts them at the loom and has them dive in headfirst. “It’s a lot of experimenting and guidance,” says Sklarchyk.

She works with up to thirty students at a time, fifteen to twenty on an average day, each assisted by a volunteer. All her students are over the age of eighteen, ranging up to adults in their late forties. There is an equal mix of male and female participants in the studio. “It’s a blast,” Sklarchyk told us.

Great for Everybody

Brother Donates Sewing Machines

Sklarchyk had mentioned to Shemtov that there was a need for sewing machines in the fiber arts studio. Many participants were interested in sewing, and it would make creating items, such as purses and pillows, much easier. Shemtov approached Brother International Corporation, a leading manufacturer of home sewing and embroidery machines, and got them to donate six machines, including a embroidery machine and an edging machine. “They donated magnificent equipment. The artists have been using everything,” Sklarchyk gushes about the donation.

Carolyn’s daughter Emma (Morris), 21, helped to set up the machines and assisted a few artists with their first projects. One artist, Dovid, was thrilled to embroider text on his tallis bag.

Sklarchyk reflected on how the artists have gained new skills on the new equipment.  “They’re learning faster than me and they started using it the morning after it was donated!”

When asked about how the Soul Center has benefitted individuals with special needs, she had this to say, “In the creative world, we are all equal. We all have the ability to create. When they sew or weave, their (the students) self-esteem grows. It has been great for everybody.”

Friendship Circle begins Walk4Friendship campaign

Friendship Circle is calling on all metro Detroit residents to join in the Walk4Friendship campaign by simply picking up the event yard sign at two local car wash locations. Supporters of the organization can visit one of two Super Car Wash locations — one in Farmington Hills and the other in Royal Oak — for the annual Friendship Drive-Thru on Aug. 21. Those who pick up a Walk4Friendship sign between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. will receive a free car wash. Coffee and lemonade will be handed out. The Farmington Hills location is at 30775 12 Mile Road, near Orchard Lake Road, and the Royal Oak location is at 31295 Woodward Ave., near 13 Mile Road.

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West Bloomfield cafe and art studio employs residents with special needs

Soul Café, which recently opened in West Bloomfield, is partially staffed by skilled, highly-trained adults with special needs. Adjacent to the restaurant is Dresner Soul Studio, where emerging artists with special needs display and sell their artwork — pottery, weaving, photography, painting, woodworking, silkscreening and more.

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Friendship Circle Farber Center opens helping adults with special needs

Many adults with special needs find themselves socially isolated and without an outlet or employment. Our friends from The Friendship Circle are woking to change that with the opening of the new Friendship Circle Farber Center. At the new center is the Soul Cafe and event space, where 40 percent of the employees have special needs. The Soul Cafe is a state of the art Kosher restaurant, which is opened from 7a – 3pm Sunday – Friday for breakfast and lunch with both inside and outside seating. The public can come and eat, but a reservation is recommended

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Breaking The Stigma: Friendship Circle to begin Teen Mental Health Program

Friendship Circle is excited to announce that the Jewish Fund has awarded a  $6,000 grant to the Friendship Circle to begin the “Breaking the Stigma” series.

The Friendship Circle of Michigan is beginning to implement a new program designed to educate, build awareness of and remove the stigma from mental health issues. Led by Teen Volunteer Coordinator and Daniel B. Sobel Friendship House Spiritual Coordinator Rabbi Yarden Blumstein, the program will feature a Teen Education Series, culminating in a speaking event for participants and their parents, and with a notable expert on mental health issues being featured. Among the potential speakers is Kevin Briggs, who has worked at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, where he witnessed and prevented suicides.

It is no brainer that mental health issues like anxiety and depression are two of the worst conditions that could take one’s life. However, it is also true that majority of them, indulge in addiction to drugs and alcohol to curb the effects of mental illness. Hence, it is important to check into detox treatment in Orlando, as they help prevent relapse.

The program is designed with the general public in mind, and advocates education on mental health issues. Teens can gain tools to help themselves and others. Rabbi Blumstein said that while Friendship Circle’s Daniel B. Sobel Friendship House already provides some support for teens in crisis, a renewed emphasis on the importance of mental and emotional well-being of the community is badly needed.

An advisory board made up of local teenagers has been established and will be led by Rabbi Blumstein. The program is expected to be up and running by January 2017.

About The Jewish Fund

The Jewish FundThe Jewish Fund was established in 1997 from the sale proceeds of Sinai Hospital to the Detroit Medical Center. Sinai Hospital was a Jewish community funded facility that grew into one of metropolitan Detroit’s top health care institutions. As a legacy of Sinai Hospital, The Jewish Fund continues the tradition of assuring excellent and compassionate care for those in need in Metropolitan Detroit by awarding grants to help vulnerable individuals improve their health and human condition.


Soul Satisfaction: Michigan Friendship Circle Opens Arts Studio and Cafe

At the Farber Soul Center, there is no shortage of “A-ha!” moments. For Noah Sriro, 24, who works in the Soul Cafe, it’s the joy of his very first tip—tangible recognition for a job well done. For facilitating staff artist Carolyn Morris, it’s the joy that comes when a fledgling artist discovers he can weave a scarf in a pattern of his own design. For volunteer artist Lori Champagne, it’s the joy of introducing an artist to a new technique and watching the creativity flow. And for parents of young adults with special needs, it’s having a place where their sons and daughters can go to learn new skills and take pride in their accomplishments.

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Volunteer Recognition Event

Game Changers: A Volunteer Recognition Event Recap

On Monday, May 23, the Friendship Circle and its members gathered at the Berman Theater in the Jewish Community Center, in West Bloomfield, Michigan, to honor the countless volunteers who have given their time over the last year.

The event was attended by well over four hundred people, including families, volunteers, local community members, and Friendship Circle supporters. Opening remarks were given by Friendship Circle parent Valerie Lane, who reflected on her experiences being the mother of a daughter with special needs.

Friendship Circle parent and opening speaker Valerie Lane.

The theme of the event was “Game Changers”… how the Friendship Circle and its staff have changed the status quo for people with special needs, giving them new opportunities, and the respect they deserve.

Rabbi Yarden Blumstein.

Teen Volunteer Coordinator Rabbi Yarden Blumstein.

Rabbi Yarden Blumstein, Teen Volunteer Coordinator, spoke next. He discussed how the idea of game changers relates to the Biblical tale of the receiving of the Torah, how the Israelites had to wait fifty days to finally receive it. People with special needs have had to wait years to be respected by the world at large, and the Friendship Circle has helped to bring that day closer to the present.

Friendship Circle co-founder Rabbi Levi Shemtov.

Rabbi Levi Shemtov, co-founder of the organization, spoke about the founding of Friendship Circle twenty-one years ago. Originally, he and his wife, fellow co-founder Bassie Shemtov, personally drove teen volunteers to the homes of children with special needs. The waiting list to become a volunteer grew over time, and by 2005, they had a space of their own where volunteers and their matched “friends” could interact with one another.

Honored teen volunteers who had logged 50, 100, 150, 200 or more hours at Friendship Circle.

Teen Volunteer Presidents being recognized at the event.

Teen volunteers were honored based on the number of hours they had put in with Friendship Circle, as well as male and female Presidents of the Volunteer Club.

Honoring Ed Krass

Ed Krass, an adult volunteer was given a special honor, including a short film about his life, and the gift of a monogrammed sports jacket reading “Coach Ed”. Ed has been the sports instructor for the Friendship Circle since 2010, following a lengthy career in sports education in public schools. He spoke about how, after retirement from education, he was unsure where his life would go. He found a new purpose in the Friendship Circle, and continuing to work with kids.

Remembering Alex Bruni

The night was not without tears shed. Last year, Alex Bruni, a long-time Friendship Circle volunteer with aspirations of attending medical school passed away. His sister spoke of his kindness, his “contagious smile”, and his generosity.

Friendship Circle co-founder Bassie Shemtov then recalled how, years ago, Alex had been paired with Danny, a friend who had had difficulty connecting with his volunteers. However, when paired with Alex, Bassie remembers how he began to grow and develop under Alex’s guidance. After Alex’s death, Bassie brought Danny to the Friendship Circle to add his touch to a plaque honoring his and Alex’s friendship, and immediately Danny recalled his favorite volunteer.

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Friendship Circle. co-founder Bassie Shemtov and the Bruni family.

Bassie presented the Bruni family with a memorial plaque to be placed in a table at the Friendship Circle’s new Soul Cafe.

Gamechanger Anthony Ianni

The event ended with a speech from the only person with autism to ever play Division I college basketball, Anthony Ianni, an alumnus of Michigan State University and motivational speaker.

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Former Big Ten basketball player and motivational speaker Anthony Ianni.

He spoke of his experiences growing up having autism, and how, as a child, no one believed he would amount to anything. He attended Grand Valley State University for two years, before accepting a scholarship to play basketball at MSU. He now travels the country speaking about his life.

Soul Café offers job training to adults with special needs

A new café and art studio opened in West Bloomfield and is offering priceless opportunities to adults with special needs. Most of the employees at the café have special needs and were once part of the Farber Center’s Friendship Circle program as children. The Soul Café is a restaurant open for breakfast and lunch connected in the Farber Center offering valuable on the job training in kitchen and serving skills. “Providing job training for these amazing young people is critical,” executive director Bassie Shemtov said. “We will train them so they can go work in the private sector.”

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soul cafe training

Friendship Circle’s Farber Friendship Center Offers Employment to Individuals with Special Needs

As we get closer to the official opening of the Farber Friendship Center, Friendship Circle was able to begin putting our plan in place for one of the unique offerings of the new facility: employment for individuals with special needs.

For the shifts that will run the new Soul Cafe, the aim was for 40% of the staff positions to be filled with persons with special needs. During the week of March 7, Friendship Circle began handing out job offers to individuals that interviewed for the positions and were chosen to work at the Soul Café.

As we handed out offer letters to current staff members at Milk & Honey Kosher Catering, the organization that will run the day-to-day operations at Soul Cafe, the excitement was infectious.

The persons that received offer letters were filled with excitement at the opportunity to gain employment and continue to be involved with Friendship Circle and the Farber Friendship Center.

Watch Ben learn that he is one of the first employees of Friendship Circle’s Soul Cafe. The Soul Café will provide a mouthwatering kosher menu featuring gourmet soups, salads and sandwiches in a warm and relaxed environment. The café will teach adults with #specialneeds the skills of food prep, cooking, hosting and serving. In addition, the Soul Café will provide life skills opportunities for the 2,500 students from across Metro Detroit who participate annually in Friendship Circle’s Lessons For Life program.

Posted by Friendship Circle of Michigan on Tuesday, March 15, 2016

In their positions of employment, adults with special needs will learn the necessary skills to host, serve, prepare and cook food, interact with customers, take meal orders and all other elements of the food service industry.

The Soul Café will provide a mouthwatering kosher menu featuring gourmet soups, salads and sandwiches in a warm and relaxed environment. The café will teach adults with ‪‎special needs‬ the skills of food prep, cooking, hosting and serving.

In addition, the Soul Café will provide life skills opportunities for the 2,500 students from across Metro Detroit who participate annually in Friendship Circle’s Lessons For Life program.

“The Soul Cafe Work Training program is a great way for individuals of all abilities to have the confidence and tools to hold a job while feeling a purpose to succeed far beyond their own expectations. With the SCWT program, all employees at the Soul Cafe have the opportunity to work in an environment that highlights inclusion while being able to focus on strengths and not hide their disabilities. It’s an environment that accepts an employee for who he is while helping form the individual’s strengths in the workplace and assisting the person to get to the next level and find a job in the typical world gain confidence and skills while benefitting from inclusion with real world purposes.” – Farber Friendship Center’s Program Director Jordan Shifman

Throughout the training, candidates will learn about proper restaurant etiquette and techniques, customer service and food prep, punctuality, scheduling, dress codes, rules of conduct, performance reviews and much more.

Employees will also receive training from vendors like Starbucks that will come in and train baristas to work behind the counter!

Training in progress at the Soul Cafe! Watch Sam master the Starbucks Coffee machine in the video below. Getting hungry? The Soul Cafe will be open for business very, very soon! Like the Soul Cafe on Facebook to get the latest updates.

Posted by Friendship Circle of Michigan on Sunday, March 27, 2016