Author Archives: Melanie Barnett

Know Before You Go: Walk4Friendship 2021 Special Needs Info

We hope to see you this Sunday, August 29 at Walk4Friendship 2021! Friendship Circle has some important information for families of children with special needs that will be attending the walk. Please read the information below carefully.

Wheelchair Accessible Parking

Wheelchair accessible parking will be at the JCC in the same area as the other shuttles. The shuttles that are wheelchair accessible are Smart Busses, and they will line up next to the other shuttles. Our wheelchair accessible shuttles will also transport you back to the JCC once the walk is over. Shuttles will leave every 30 minutes at the top and bottom of every hour. We strongly suggest you arrive by 10:30 am to ensure you don’t miss the opening ceremony.

If you have not already indicated on your walk registration and you require wheelchair accessible parking, please let us know in advance.

Please note: Wheelchair accessible parking is only for a car with an individual in a wheelchair. Everyone else (including others with special needs) should park in the general parking lot at Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit D. Dan & Betty Kahn Building Eugene & Marcia Applebaum Jewish Community Campus, 6600 West Maple Road, West Bloomfield.

For more information about parking, please click here.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us by emailing [email protected].

gluten free food

Free food and beverages are provided at Walk4Friendship All food stations will offer:

  • Hot Dogs
  • Corn
  • Potato Salad
  • Watermelon
  • Chips

All of these items are gluten free. In addition, there will be a limited amount of gluten free hot dog buns available. If you would like a gluten free hot dog bun please ask a Friendship Circle staff member supervising the food area. Please note that there is a limited supply of gluten free buns and they will be provided on a first come, first served basis.

sensory spaces & breaks

The Friendship Circle Lifetown building will be open for families to use during Walk4Friendship. Families of individuals with special needs can visit the Bauer Activity Wing to cool off and explore the different sensory rooms including the Snoezelen Room, Lego Room, Gross Motor Room and Tactile Room.

*Please note that parents must stay with their child at all times in the building as volunteers will not be provided.

tents and shade

In preparation for a hot day, there will be plenty of shade available. There will be three 20×40 foot tents available as well as the Friendship Circle Lifetown building for plenty of shade and respite from the sun.

We hope you will join us this year for Walk4Friendship 2021! Click here to register.


5 Things to Know About the 2021 Walk4Friendship

The 16th annual Walk4Friendship will take place on Sunday, August 29, 2021. If you haven’t registered yet for the event, click here

Here are the top five things to know before you go! 

1. There’s a New Route

This year, the Walk4Friendship will take place along a new path between Friendship Circle’s Farber Center and Meer Center. This beautiful nature walk in the woods will be decorated with art from Soul Studio artists including interactive elements along the path.

The route will start at Friendship Circle’s Farber Soul Center, home of the Soul Cafe and Dresner Foundation Soul Studio, and ends at the Meer Center campus. The walk is about 1.5 miles. For those who prefer not to walk, a shuttle will be available once the walk begins to transport you to Meer Center. 

View the walk route.

2. We’re Sharing the Message that YOU BELONG

“You Belong” is the idea that without each of us, the world is incomplete. Everyone is interconnected, which is why we rely on each other to help us find our strength, passions and purpose. 

Friendship Circle was founded upon the idea that within each person is a soul, and that soul is equal and worthy of boundless love. This is why we have chosen “You Belong” as the theme of this year’s walk, making this a significant year for all of us… including you!

3. There’s Spectacular Entertainment

If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that the Walk4Friendship will provide tons of fun. This year’s Walk4Friendship event will have bounce houses, a foam pit, segway tours, a zipline, and a Dixie Twister. Make sure you also keep an eye out for the moon bounce, giant Guess Who, petting zoo, Pirate Ship, rock painting and various sensory activities!

4. Plenty of Parking

Parking will be at the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit D. Dan & Betty Kahn Building Eugene & Marcia Applebaum Jewish Community Campus, 6600 West Maple Road, West Bloomfield. We strongly suggest you arrive by 10:30 am to ensure you don’t miss the opening ceremony.

Wheelchair-accessible parking is available

There is a wheelchair-equipped shuttle to opening ceremonies. Please let a staff member know that you need a wheelchair-accessible bus. Wheelchair-accessible shuttles will transport you to the opening ceremony and back to your car once the walk is over. Shuttles will leave every 30 minutes, at the top and bottom of every hour.

Convenient Shuttles Available

To the opening ceremony: Shuttles will transport participants from the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit D. Dan & Betty Kahn Building Eugene & Marcia Applebaum Jewish Community Campus to Farber Center starting at 9:30 am and will run regularly until 11:30 am.

From the opening ceremonies to Meer Center: After the walk begins at 11:45 am, supporters who prefer not to walk can take a shuttle directly to Meer Center, where they can cheer on family and friends!

After 11:30 am, all shuttles from the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit D. Dan & Betty Kahn Building Eugene & Marcia Applebaum Jewish Community Campus will go directly to Meer Center. Shuttles will return supporters to their cars when they are done enjoying the festivities.

5. Dress Right and Be Prepared

On August 29, the weather will be hot and sunny. In order to have the best experience, we recommend that you wear light clothes and comfortable walking shoes. Remember to show up wearing your Friendship Circle swag! 

Pick up your Walk4Friendship t-shirts at Friendship Circle the week before at Meer Center starting Sunday, August 22. If you can’t make t-shirt pickup, there will be some available on walk day. 

Don’t forget to pack sunscreen and a hat. Food and drinks will be provided at the event. 


Help us make a difference today. Donate to the Walk4Friendship. 

Click here to see our fundraising progress so far!

UMatter Alum Sparks Conversation with Hats for Suicide Awareness

Two University of Michigan students from Alpha Epsilon Pi found a creative way to raise funds and awareness for mental health challenges on campus. By selling customized hats, the pair raised nearly $1,000 for Friendship Circle’s UMatter.

“Your story isn’t over,” states the front of the hat. On the side, it reads “National Suicide Awareness Month” with a hotline number. For someone struggling with thoughts of suicide, this powerful statement could be the sign they need to seek help.

Jared Brecher and UMatter alum Jonah Stone launched the initiative out of their fraternity and sold the hats around the University of Michigan campus over the past year. Through partnerships with fraternity chapters at neighboring schools like Michigan State, the hats reached a wide audience.

“It was a hard year and everyone was in a weird headspace because of the pandemic,” said Stone. “Whether you related to it or not, it was an issue everyone could support.”

Stone’s passion for mental health causes began in high school when he got involved with UMatter, a Friendship Circle initiative powered by the Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety that enables high schoolers to help their peers overcome stigmas and other obstacles related to mental health.

“I saw that [UMatter] was a group that was actually making a difference,” said Stone. “It ignited a passion in me that kids my age were having that important conversation.”

While in the program, Stone took on the role of major events coordinator for UMatter’s One Thing I Wish You Knew. The annual event amplifies voices in the community and how their attempts to overcome challenges have often felt isolating and alienating.

“Hearing the speakers telling their stories to hundreds of people in the audience, knowing I played a role in getting these conversations out there really meant a lot to me.”

Even after leaving for college, UMatter’s mission never left Stone’s mind. Brecher and Stone’s donation will help UMatter programming continue impacting teens in the community.

“Jonah found a remarkable way to continue supporting UMatter’s programming and mission after high school,” said Teen Director Rabbi Yarden Blumstein. “Mental health challenges are a major concern for college students. Jared and Jonah took UMatter’s mission on a college framework and started that important conversation on campus.”

Learn more about Friendship Circle’s UMatter.

weinberg village

All Around Town: Weinberg Village Comes Back to Life for Middle School Visit

Students from Anderson Middle School toured Friendship Circle’s Weinberg Village, spending real money in the true-to-life cityscape. The students visited Sav-On Drugs, Fringe Too Salon, Friendship Cafe and more as part of the Lessons for Life program, gaining valuable life skills experiences.

weinberg village

In the heart of LifeTown, Weinberg Village is back in action. The town is once again fully staffed with Friendship Circle’s dedicated volunteers after closing over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many students have spent the past 12+ months in contained classrooms or in virtual learning spaces and haven’t had the opportunity to practice daily skills in the real world, like making purchases and crossing the street on their own.

“Kids spent a lot of time in quarantine not interacting with others, so it’s really important for social and safety skills to practice these things in order to be successful,” says Shelby Lonnerstater, educational director at Friendship Circle.

After arriving at Weinberg Village, students stopped at Huntington Bank to interact with the bank teller and withdraw real money to spend around town. From there, the middle schoolers decided for themselves which locations to visit next.

shopping at Sav-On Drugs

Some students ventured off to Sav-On Drugs, where they purchased toys and candy from the shop. With a limited budget, the students practiced money management, ensuring that they had enough dollars to visit all their favorite shops.

checking out books at the library

Students also stopped at the West Bloomfield Library, browsing books to check out and using library tablets to research topics on the internet. Others stopped at Henry Ford Medical Center for their check-up. After sitting in the waiting room, the doctor checked students’ eyesight, looked inside their ears and listened to their heartbeat.

getting a check-up at the doctor's

After visiting the ice cream stand, students rode bikes in the street, learning to stop at each red light for pedestrians. Afterward, they ended the day at the Friendship Theater, stopping at the window to purchase tickets and popcorn.

buying ice cream

riding a bike

friendship theater

Lessons for Life provides students with a unique experience that they can’t get anywhere else. The biggest takeaway for students is confidence in assuming responsibility and independence in the outside world.

“There’s a gap in education right now with not having access to that real-world environment where it’s safe to learn and make mistakes,” says Lonnerstater. “For the students, the teachers and the volunteers, it’s been a piece missing over the past year.”

To participate in the Lessons for Life program and schedule a visit of the Weinberg Village, contact Shelby Lonnerstater at [email protected]

Corie Fauer

Friendship Circle Mourns the Loss of Soul Studio Artist Corie Fauer and Her Sister Chamra

The Friendship Circle community mourns the untimely loss of Soul Studio Artist Corie Fauer and her sister Chamra.

Corie enjoyed making expressive and imaginative paintings, drawings and ceramic artworks surrounded by her friends at Soul Studio. Corie brought light and joy to everyone she met in the Friendship Circle community. She lived life to the fullest with unwavering charisma, a booming laugh, and a smile that could open up the most calloused of souls. She loved to strike a pose the second someone pulled out a camera and designated nicknames as if it was her sworn duty. The impact Corie made on Soul Studio is far reaching and the void she has left will be felt by many.

This loss is felt deeply by our community. We will never forget the radiance of their souls. May they live on through the stories we share and the joy Corie and Chamra brought to everyone they knew. We pray that G-d comforts their family and friends in this difficult time.

Soul Studio will be having a virtual remembrance for Corie on Wednesday, May 19th from 5:00-6:00 PM. Please join us via Zoom as we celebrate Corie’s life and tell our favorite Corie stories. If you have photos that you would like to share, please send them to [email protected]

Below is the Zoom link and information.
Wednesday, May 19th
5:00-6:00 PM
Meeting ID: 967 1820 2567

Soul Studio receives $20k grant from national endowment for the arts

Soul Studio Receives $20K Grant to Support Art Programming

Friendship Circle of Michigan’s Dresner Foundation Soul Studio has been approved for a $20,000 Grants for Arts Projects award to support the Soul Studio Art Program from the National Endowment for the Arts. The program serves adults, 18 years or older with special needs through educational programming in painting, drawing, ceramics, weaving, sculpture, woodworking, photography and digital arts.“Soul Studio is a uniquely special place where adults with special needs can find a sense of purpose and a place to belong,” said Friendship Circle Co-Founder and Director Bassie Shemtov. “This generous grant will allow our artists to continue creating incredible works of fine art in a welcoming, inclusive environment.”

The Soul Studio Art Program encourages creative growth among participants while responding to each artist’s unique physical and cognitive conditions. Participants receive support from facilitating artists and trained volunteers, who encourage artists to follow their creative impulses and develop their careers as contemporary artists.   Soul Studio is among the more than 1,100 projects across America totaling nearly $27 million that were selected during this second round of Grants for Arts Projects fiscal year 2021 funding.

“As the country and the arts sector begin to imagine returning to a post-pandemic world, the National Endowment for the Arts is proud to announce funding that will help arts organizations such as Friendship Circle’s Soul Studio reengage fully with partners and audiences,” said NEA Acting Chairman Ann Eilers. “Although the arts have sustained many during the pandemic, the chance to gather with one another and share arts experiences is its own necessity and pleasure.”

Learn more about the Soul Studio Art Program.



Friendship Circle in the news

Friendship Circle’s Soul Cafe Re-opened in West Bloomfield

The Cafe temporarily closed amid the pandemic and now has an all-new kosher menu! Soul Cafe was founded to provide vocational opportunities to adults with special needs. The staff teach trainees the skills of food prep, cooking, hosting and serving. Six adults with special needs have gone through the program to date and there are currently four adults in the program.

friendship circle in the news

Friendship Circle reopens Soul Cafe in West Bloomfield Township

The Friendship Circle helps more than 3,000 people with special needs along with their families.

The Soul Cafe in West Bloomfield Township is one of its programs. It’s the neighborhood spot where you can come and pick up lunch or a cup of coffee. And while it appears the community is excited to see the place reopen, nothing compares to the excitement of the staff.

Read more.

jonathan barnett

Soul Stories: Jonathan Barnett

You can typically find Soul Studio Artist Jonathan Barnett making repetitive, gestural brushstrokes on a large canvas. These abstract, vivid patterns are what make Jonathan’s art so enthralling to viewers. 

For Jonathan, Soul Studio is a place where he can be his authentic self and enjoy making art. In his early days at the studio, Jonathan exclusively worked in self-portraiture, consistently entering himself into his paintings, drawings and silkscreen prints.

“His artwork blossomed tremendously over the three-year period that I worked with him,” says Nora Barron, a Soul Studio volunteer who has closely shadowed Jonathan and helped to guide his creative process.

In his time at the studio, Jonathan’s subject matter has transitioned from self-portraits to pictures of animals and machines and more abstract shapes and patterns, with the help of Nora Barron. 

“If he had a large sheet of paper, he might do circles or triangles over the whole thing. I would encourage other shapes or colors, to make them overlap — whatever seemed to catch on with him at the moment.” 

Art Through Exploration, Not Limitation

When creating his artworks, Jonathan is distinct in the materials and colors he chooses. After picking from the studio’s yarn wall or determining the exact color of paint he’s imagining, he uses his carefully selected materials to articulate the idea in his mind.

“As an artist and a person, Jonathan has always been open to [trying] something new as long as he could form the materials to his ideas,” says Brian Kavanaugh, a former Soul Studio facilitating artist who has worked with Jonathan since the beginning. “Whether by taking up the strenuous work of creating countless silkscreen prints of his self-portrait, or cutting and gluing bits of thick rope to outline a massive shape on canvas; he is excited by how he could utilize new information to articulate the things he loves.”

 Jonathan exerts the new information and skills he obtains at Soul Studio to depict what brings him joy and comfort. His most recent artworks involve repeating shapes and patterns, verging further abstract. 

“He is a highly skilled artist — defining the studio through exploration, not limitation.”

A Kindhearted Soul

A proficient and diligent host in the studio, Jonathan greets all studio visitors and remembers everyone’s name. He will even triple-check to make sure he got it right. Jonathan is a kind and helpful presence in the studio. He is happy to show off his work to others but needs time to warm up to strangers. 

For Nora Barron, her experience working with Jonathan changed over time as he became more comfortable expressing himself. 

“I think the relationship for me has been extraordinary,” says Barron on her time spent helping Jonathan with his art in the studio. “It’s been something I’ve looked forward to every week, something that’s helped me grow as a person. I look forward to working with him more.”