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Circle of Friends honors 130 teen volunteers

More than 300 people turned out at the The Inn at Longshore in Westport one evening in May to honor 150 dedicated teens who volunteer their time for Circle of Friends, an all-volunteer organization that provides year-round programs, as well as services and home visits, for children, teens and young adults with special needs throughout Fairfield County.

Hosted by Circle of Friends, the “Evening of Recognition” was attended by a host of dignitaries, community leaders and clergy, including Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling, Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe and Weston First Selectman Gayle Weinstein, and Linda Russ of Westport, who serves as president of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropy.

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(seated, l to r) Owen Bregman of Westport, president of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropy Linda Russ of Westport, volunteers Ann and Amanda Katz of Westport; (standing, l to r) Ellen Bregman of Westport, Circle of Friends Director Freida Hecht, volunteer Andrew Saunders of Westport.

Among the 150 honorees were 15 high school seniors attending the public high schools of Westport, Weston, Wilton and Norwalk with Fellowship Awards for their combined 3,000 volunteer “Friendship Hours.”

In her keynote address, Circle of Friends director and founder Freida Hecht stressed the importance of mainstreaming special needs children and their families into the Jewish community, which is what the organization does.

Now in its 11th year, Circle of Friends has welcomed nearly 500 teen volunteers.

The teens offer the gift of friendship to a child or young teen who may have never experienced that before, said Hecht. And, as a result of their positive experience with Circle of Friends, many of the teens have gone on to become involved in Jewish life at college, she added.

Hecht urged those gathered to continue their work on behalf of those with special needs. Quoting the Lubavitcher Rebbe, she said, “We really need to see the inner souls of these children, for these special souls are a gift to the world.”

For more information on Circle of Friends contact Freida Hecht at (203) 293-8837 or circlefriendsct@gmail.com, or visit circleoffriendsct.org. Photos by Boruch Ezagui

CAP: Rabbi Yehoshua Hecht, Beth Israel of Westport/Norwalk; Freida Hecht; honorees Carrie and Dr. Stanley Cooper; Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling; Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe; Weston First Selectman Gayle Weinstein; dinner chairs, Andrea and Bill Pecoriello of Westport.

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