Picture this, you walk into the front doors and immediately you’re greeted with the caramelized smell of coffee. The inside space is massive yet comfortable enough to entice you to spend time there. In the back, there’s an art studio for any creative and there is even a bakery that specializes in a number of desserts such as challah and crinkle cookies.
Luckily for you, you no longer need to imagine such a place because of Friendship Circle, a local non-profit organization that works with adults and kids with special needs.
Executive Director Levi Stein says the organization provides programming support, inclusion and currently employs 25 adults with special needs.
“There are programs going on nearly every day of the week now and we’re just here for the families,” said Stein.
The center is in the process of developing its new home. The building will have three main components; a kosher coffee shop open to the public, an art studio, and a bakery. Beyond those amenities, Program Director Marissa Wichman says they designed the space to be inclusive for everyone.
“At the new center, we will have a sensory room,” said Wichman. “A couch, lighting, sensory toys so the environment is very inclusive for anyone who has special needs.”
One of the employees there, Jonathan Frank, who is also a gold medalist for the Special Olympics of Wisconsin, says he’s excited for the center to turn into a frequent hangout spot.
“We can come here and we can learn and we can strive as a group and be almost like a big family,” said Frank.
Essentially, the organization at its core is about friendship. One of the focuses is on developing personal, lifelong bonds with care, respect and love.
“Isolation is the worst thing that can happen to any child, any teen,” said Stein. “We want to fight that war on isolation and make sure everyone grows up happy productive and included members of society.”
The Friendship Circle is beyond just a place that accommodates individuals with special needs. It’s an essential transition for social spaces to have everyone in mind while dismantling stigmas. It’s also a reminder that even simple acts such as a smile or a hello can go a long way.
The new center is currently in the process of being developed in its new space at 8649 N. Port Washington Road. Learn more information and updates on their website.