On Sunday, Oct. 25, dozens of local teens from throughout the Greater Hartford area gathered outdoors (socially distanced) for the Friendship Circle of Greater Hartford’s Teen Orientation. Their mission: Brainstorm creative new ways to bring together children and young adults with or without special needs who, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, are currently living in isolation.
“Social isolation is difficult for everyone. However, during the pandemic it is especially difficult for that segment of the community who are living with disabilities. That is why it is more vital now than ever before to ensure these connections continue,” said Shaya Gopin, director of the Friendship Circle, a group that brings together people from toddlers through young adults, with or without special needs, for a variety of Judaic and social programs.
“Friendship Circle fills that void and facilitates friendship between members through weekly home visits, holiday celebrations, Jewish education, cooking, fitness and art programs – all while developing strong friendships,” he explained.
At the heart of Friendship Circle is a group dedicated teenage volunteers from local high schools, who give freely of their time, devotion, and unconditional love. To drive home the vital role these teen volunteers continue to play during these difficult times, the theme of the Friendship Circle’s fall orientation was, “You Are ESSENTIAL, not optional services.”
The teen orientation was highlighted by a panel of parents and siblings, who shared their perspective on how the pandemic is effecting their entire family, as well as tips on how to successfully engage with those with special needs.
Tammy Krulewitz, Friendship Circle volunteer coordinator, introduced a new program called “FC Connect,” which challenges the teens to use think creatively in connecting with children living with disability.
Friendship Circle program director Shayna Gopin led the teens in a challah baking workshop, explaining to them that the process of challah baking has life messages that can be applied to all healthy relationships, especially engaging someone who is different than yourself.
Chabad of Greater Hartford launched the Friendship Circle in the fall of 2009. Since then, it has grown include multiple programs and 100 members.
To learn more about the Friendship Circle, visit FriendshipCircleCT.com, email Info@FriendshipCircleCT.com or call (860) 833-4035.
Main Photo: Friendship Circle teen volunteers at the orgnization’s Teen Orientation Program this fall.