Author Archives: Dennis Murphy

Friendship Circle’s Lessons for Life Volunteer Cookie Koblin Shares Her Story

Koblin is a regular face at Friendship Circle, and plans to stay as long as she can.

Cookie Koblin’s grandson was just 3 years old when he was diagnosed with autism. She knew right away that it would be her job to help support her daughter’s family and find resources for her grandson. The family quickly found support through Friendship Circle, giving them hope they needed to navigate their needs.

“My family was so embraced by the Friendship Circle family that when the building opened and they started Lessons for Life, I knew I had to volunteer,” Koblin says. “My grandson is 23 now, and I will continue to be here every week as long as I can. Bassie and Levi Shemtov are truly showing people what kindness, patience and real love look like through this work.”

Friendship Circle’s Lessons for Life Offers Real-World Experience in State-of-the-Art-Village

Friendship Circle’s Weinberg Village teaches kids with special needs critical skills in a safe environment.

Imagine a place where children of all abilities and backgrounds could learn essential life skills in a safe and accepting environment. Imagine if that place was developed with experts to help children with special needs feel safe venturing into new experiences. Now imagine all these experiences and life lessons were happening in a state-of-the-art facility designed as a “mini-town” to mirror the real world.

Nicole Kahan: How Friendship Circle is Changing Teens’ Lives

Nicole Kahan started out volunteering with the Friends at Home Program in seventh grade, and as a college student, she now leads Sunday Circle each week.

Nicole Kahan was a seventh grader at Hillel Day School in Farmington Hills when she heard about a place where she could volunteer to befriend children with special needs. Her first experience volunteering with Friendship Circle was with the Friends at Home program offering families respite and friendship for their children with special needs.

“I will never forget that first day being dropped off to meet my Buddy,” Kahan says. “I was nervous at first. But then, all I needed to do was spend time with her and be a friend. That visit changed everything for me.”

A Friendship That Changes Lives: Amanda & Allie

Friendship Circle brought Allie and her Buddy Amanda together, changing their lives for the better.

When Josh and Jodie Jacobs’ daughter Allie was diagnosed with Infantile Spasm Syndrome, they didn’t know what her life would look like. The second daughter in the Jacobs family, Allie suffered long-term cognitive and developmental delays. But those delays haven’t stopped her from making and becoming an amazing friend thanks to Friendship Circle.

The Jacobs hoped Friendship Circle would be a support system for them to help Allie participate in activities and connect with other children. She began attending after school and weekend programs at age 3. Barely able to walk and still learning much of her speech, Allie was welcomed with open arms and met Amanda Smith, her first Buddy.

Brianna Dines – Testimonial

As a newly graduated Occupational Therapist from Grand Valley State University, Brianna Dines knows the importance that an organization like Friendship Circle can have on the future success of individuals with special needs. “Friendship Circle has taught me about the importance of providing opportunities for individuals to gain skills and independence; not limiting individuals to what society or medical diagnoses perceive their abilities to be. I commend Friendship Circle for continuing to meet the needs of those they serve by creating new outlets for growth and development, such as the Soul Café and Studio; while also maintaining programs that have been successful and impactful for new individuals and families they serve.” Brianna Dines experience at Friendship Circle greatly influenced the direction of her career. She never realized how much until she continued her education and began sharing her experiences with other professionals in the field. ”When I would tell my graduate school class filled with aspiring OTs, about Friendship Circle, it would sound as if it were an occupational therapists fantasy. The impact that this organization has on the individuals they serve is inspiring and remarkable. It is an incredible model that I hope to incorporate into my practice to ensure that I am supporting my clients and their overall independence and happiness.” Brianna having been a volunteer for a number of years, has seen the growth and dedication Friendship Circle has displayed throughout their history of serving the community. “Friendship Circle has developed a multitude of programs to enrich the lives of those they serve by providing socialization and life skill learning opportunities. Friendship Circle is a selfless organization that always says “YES” to new ideas that will positively impact the individuals they serve and the community. Friendship Circle is an organization that recognizes the needs of those they serve and continues to support them, and their families, and they grow.” Briana has seen this growth with numerous individuals. However, Bree Rienke, a participant in Friendship Circle programming, especially touched her heart.“My relationship with Bree is more than just “volunteer”, she is like a sister to me. It has been so incredible to see her grow into a fun, loving, sweet, and sassy teenager! Bree has continued to inspire me by how resilient, strong, and capable she is. I am so proud of her and the woman she is becoming.” Brianna hopes that Friendship Circle will continue to impact the lives of those they serve for many years to come. “Friendship Circle is a great model to follow; they are dedicated to those they serve and never stopping until each individual’s needs are met. It is inspiring to see the continued growth and community support for such a worthy, impactful, and wonderful organization.”

Samantha Murray – Testimonial

Samantha Murray is currently a paraprofessional educator of an ASD (autism spectrum disorder) classroom. She credits Friendship Circle with helping her to find her passion in life. “I was around the age of thirteen when I was introduced to Friendship Circle. I was having a difficult time figuring out who I was, and where I belonged. I was processing my own trauma and struggling to find a purpose. My mom encouraged me to volunteer one Sunday, and I have been hooked ever since. I found my purpose, my passion, and a whole new view on life. Working with children has since become my career. I have worked with hundreds of special needs children and many siblings that also need special attention.” Samantha’s open-minded spirit made her a perfect volunteer and an even better friend. “The first time I volunteered for a winter break camp, I was paired with a particular boy. He was non-verbal and everyone warned me to be careful because he was known to have some aggressive behaviors. I was around thirteen years old and he was twelve. I went to sit with him in the back of the bus on the way to a field trip. I started talking to him like a friend like nothing was different about him. To everyone’s surprise, he was listening to me, not pinching or scratching me or himself. I felt proud that I was able to connect with him. I felt that he must have seen something in me that made him react so well when he hadn’t with others. My connection with him is so strong that I still visit him to this day!” Samantha expressed to us the difficulty of encompassing the immense impact that Friendship Circle had on her within one interview. “It is impossible for me to put into words how meaningful Friendship Circle was to me when I needed somewhere to fit in. I was going through some emotionally challenging times during those years, and walking into a place where I felt accepted by everyone. It was so important to me. It guided me to healthy friendships and learning more about myself. I continue to have lasting relationships with the families and friends I have worked with over the years.” We asked Samantha if you could tell people one thing about Friendship Circle what would it be? She replied, “ I would say that Friendship Circle is an amazing and welcoming organization. Their fabulous programs and events benefit people with all abilities, and they often end up providing forever friendships and forever memories for both the volunteers and participants. Friendship Circle is authentically Fun, Diverse, and Accepting.”

UMatter suicide prevention helps teens in crisis

“I’m currently 900 days clean from self-harm,” said Jenna Friedman, a U Matter teen board member.

And now Friedman, 18, is helping others stay safe, stay healthy, and stay alive. All are well-aware that suicide is the second leading cause of death for teens – so many of whom are also struggling with mental health issues.

Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety announces $750K grant to Friendship Circle of Michigan

The Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety announced a 15-year, $750,000 grant to the Friendship Circle of Michigan that will help the funding and growth of its UMatter program, which focuses on teen mental health.

The foundation, founded by a family with Michigan roots in memory of their son who died after struggling with social anxiety, began support of UMatter in 2017 with a five-year grant of $250,000. The grant is being extended for an additional 10 years, making it a 15-year investment.

Creating a Circle of Friendship: Friendship Circle After School and Sunday Circle Programs

When a child is diagnosed with a special need, parents devote their time and energy to ensure the best possible outcomes for that child. Often forgotten is the need for friendships essential to every child’s success in life. That is where Friendship Circle steps in.