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2012 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Friendship Circle SD Inc

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Children & Youth, Children & Youth Services

Mission: The Friendship Circle's mission is to provide families who have children, teens, and young adults with special needs a full range of social and recreational experiences. At its heart is the belief that every individual, regardless of ability, can be a productive member of the community and benefit from the social support offered by one's peers. We hope that someday people with special needs will be fully included in society, replacing social isolation, bullying, and loneliness with acceptance, participation, and friendship. The Friendship Circle in San Diego held its first event in 2005, welcoming more than 20 program participants, their families and volunteers. Since then, Friendship Circle has grown to over 200 teen volunteers, 30 college-age volunteers, and 100 professional adult volunteers and serves over 100 families who have members with special needs. While medical research is finding cures for disease, the prevalence of disabilities is increasing.  Society is struggling to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities and there has been real progress.  The Americans with Disabilities Act, mainstreaming of students in classrooms, government agencies and national non-profit organizations are all working hard to level the playing field through legislation, funding, and health services.  But friendship is not on their “to do” list.  For The Friendship Circle, it is the ONLY thing on the “to do” list.

Results: We increase social skills and self-esteem of participants through one-on-one sessions with typically developing teens in the following activities: Friends@Home programs, Monthly Yoga Classes, Teen, Women's and Men's Clubs, Outings such as horse-back riding, Boomers, hiking, picnics, etc.

Target demographics: Children, teens, and young adults with developmental and other disabilities and their families living in San Diego County.

Direct beneficiaries per year: In the last seven years, over 300 families with children with special needs and 500 families of volunteers, for a total of over 2,000 people, have been involved with the Friendship Circle.

Geographic areas served: San Diego County

Programs: Friendship circle of san diego enriches the lives of children, teens and adults with special needs through social and recreational experiences and inspires volunteers to participate in building a stronger and more inclusive community

Community Stories

48 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

dfwellison

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a volunteer I get more than I give at the Friendship Circle. At an organized horseback riding event, a beautiful blonde young woman slipped off her horse, she was unharmed as there were trained professionals right next to her to break her fall. Frightened, crying, and sitting in the dust, she was carried back to her wheelchair. It had taken her so long to overcome come her first set of fears about the horse. Her Friendship Circle companion, a friend who has visited her once a week for two years, stood by her side. Ten minutes later the young blonde woman was back on the horse. She inspired me to try something new. I joined a writers group and whenever I feel like quitting, I remember her crying, her recovery and the large open smile of accomplishment when she rode around the rink, her friend at her side. Having been around Friendship Circle for 4 years, I now know that this experience is an everyday act of courage. It is a honor to be a part of such a compassionate and down to earth community.

Previous Stories

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have been involved with Friendship Circle for six years. My daughter, who was fifteen at the time, became involved as a friend to a girl with special needs. She spoke about her experience with her new friend and expressed her initial frustration with this new relationship. Over time my daughter found ways to connect with her new friend, and in that process learned to be more patient, understanding, and accepting. I was so impressed with the level of organization of FC that I wanted to be a part of it. Experiencing their holiday celebrations, teen training, the support groups and education for parents, and the coordination of the children's participation in a myriad of activities, made me come to highly value this organization. I am now proud to be a board member of San Diego Friendship Circle.

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Alec2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

i volunteeer and belong to freindship circle of chabad san diego ,california. i have asperger's but am hgihly functioning. Our group under the leadership of elisheva green, works with developmental disabled children and some adults and their families. though chabad is an orthodox jewish organization , jews and even some non-jews are welcomed and all are treated with respect and digiity and made to feel special. we have activites like painting,and making challah(jewsih bread) ,make crafts for passover,and chanukah, and purim ahving us learn abotu the holidays while using our hands and minds as well! we go to the zoo,and boomers(mini-golf and other activites), also we learn to work with one another and see that each of us are unique. Friendship circle provides a helathy environment for the families and participants in the program. For me i dont have a car and freidnship circle provides a inexpensvie way to spend time with other jews and feel a sense of belonging and family . the volunteers i work with our so cool too becuse they are patient and understanding and dont treat us like stupid children or intimidate us. being with them is like being with the kind of people who make you forget you have a disbility and feel you in a place where disability is not a llimiting factor where what ever we do be it singing or planting a tree,or particiapte in religious ceremony or drawing or painting or other crafts is appereciated. i wish the whole world was like Friendship circle and have made many real freidns they are great!

Client Served

Rating: 5

Friendship Circle is a great organization, it is always hosting fun activities for special need kids. All people there are so friebdly and willing to help.

Ellen25

Client Served

Rating: 5

My son is developmentally delayed and was becoming very isolated. He began participating with Friendship Circle ans is doing activities every month. Great Job!

MichelleSD

Client Served

Rating: 5

This program offers wonderful socialization opportunities for my two teens with special needs. Matched with a "typical" volunteer, they participate in fun activities in the community several times a year. In addition, one volunteer raised funds for 3 iPads, and our family was lucky enough to be selected to receive one. It's made a huge difference for my kids!

Previous Stories

Client Served

Rating: 5

My two children with (different) developmental disabilities LOVE Friendship Circle events. What a marvelous, well-run and caring program this is! I appreciate the opportunity for my children to engage in fun, appropriate activities with typically developing peers; the parent support and education component; and the welcome break from parenting responsibilities. What a joy to hand my children over to eager teen volunteers without any doubt they will have fun and be well cared for!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Friendship Circle provides a nurturing and a loving environment to children with special needs, as a volunteer I have become a better person, my son has learned many life long lessons by mentoring and working with this phenomenal organization.

Michoel P.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I am the Dean of a private high school in San Diego. The service that the Friendship Circle provides to children with disabilities is incredible. As part of orientation, our school hosts two training sessions for volunteers for this wonderful organization. The impact that the Friendship Circle has on the families they help is life changing. Just as an example, a family that I have known for years has a daughter with Downs Syndrome. The skills that the Friendship Circle helped her learn, and the ability to connect with people outside of her family, enabled her to leave home and study in an advanced setting.

Client Served

Rating: 5

My Son and his friend went to an event a few months ago and are still talking about how much fun it was and even how much they learned. The only reason they haven't been back was conflict of the time when they could not get to the event.

paula-matthews

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Friendship Circle is a wonderful organization. It teaches compassion and understanding to its volunteers and it helps children and adults with special needs. It is an active organization in the community, one filled with love, respect and empathy. When my daughter volunteered for Friendship Circle I was able to see and appreciate the great work they do and the important services they provide.

Cheryl29

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My son has Tourettes Syndrome and knows what it is like to feel different. When he found out about the Friendship Circle he immediately became involved as a teen helping others who are a little different from the normal population. He just LOVES to help others. He has a kind,gentle heart and understands how it is to lead a slightly different life. He has two "special" friends that he visits every week and gives those children a feeling of normalcy for a few hours each week. It is a great relief to the parents to see their kids playing in a normal environment. The Friendship Circle gives back in every way. They are a very organized organization always going beyond their means to help others. This has been a life changing experience for my son. He looks forward to the weekend when he can be with the group at activities just to help others. We are thrilled to be a part of it.

Client Served

Rating: 5

My son is a 6 year old boy with autism. Over the past year, we have had the great fortune to benefit from this organization. We have been able to participate in several enriching activities, such as horseback riding, that we would not otherwise have had the opportunity to do. In addition, they provide a warm, understanding environment where Paul can just be Paul without having to feel self-conscious. He has also been paired with a buddy, who is an amazing 9th grade girl who spends time with him 3 to 4 times a month working on social skills. We are all so grateful for this experience! it has made all of our lives happier and better.

Joyce10

Volunteer

Rating: 5

the Friendship Circle of San Diego is an amazing organization. It helps children/teens/adults with special needs have a non-judgemental friend. They are one of the most caring groups I have even been associated with.

Ann_20

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This organization has provided not only our 14 year old son but my husband and I an opportunity to help our community with special needs. The organization is one of the best groups I have ever been associated with. It has wonderful outings and I can see all people are treated with restpect.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The organization provides an excellent opportunity for children with special needs to be included in various activities. It is very beautiful to see how the children interact and they grow on experiences. Having someone to be with means more to them then anything else and the Friendship Circle creates that environment.

Client Served

Rating: 5

The Friendship Circle is one of a kind organization that help families with children with disabilities enjoy being together; help families enjoy outings, holidays, and support.

Zander C.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This organization helped me understand how valuable my life is. I volunteer with a family with 3 autistic children--seeing how they go through life with such a struggle to do basic tasks it humbles me that i take these actions for granted.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

This is an amazing organization that has done wonderful things for special needs children and adults! I was a special education teacher for 21 years and witnessed first hand, friendship does not come easy for people with special needs. Friendship Circle creates socially appropriate activities and events that are very specific to the population they serve. The "typical" teen volunteers encourage their matched "friend" to experience the activities at the event, at the same time fostering a friendship that often continues with home visits and an ongoing friendship that can last for years. Friendship Circle has changed the lives of both the volunteers and friends and has given children and adults with special needs someone and something to look forward to...........a social event and a friend!

Suzanne21

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Friendship Circle ("FC") is an organization that shows its sensitivity from all who are involved for the disabled child and adult. FC, through those who work and volunteer for it, is a friendly, helpful and really amazing organization that gives the disabled a reason d'etre. It enhances their lives, and gives the children and adults a way to have fun and know more than living with their disability. It shows them a way to have fun and be positive with their disability. I have found those who are involved with this wonderful organization to be the most senstive, positive and kind people and am very happy to be associated with them. Not only has this organization changed the lives of the disabled children and adults, but it has changed the lives of the volunteers as well, all for the better.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Working as a volunteer for the friendship circle is such a rewarding experience, I love seeing how happy the children get when they meet their "friend" for the day. Volunteering here for the last 2 years has been a great experience.

Yosef David H.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The opportunity to guide special needs children and young adults through various hands-on experiences at Friendship Circle San Diego programs and events has proven to be very meaningful in my life. Through this work I felt better prepared when a local family asked me to be a part-time caregiver for their daughter and son-in-law. The joy I could see beaming from the faces of those the organization serves became an added source of joy for me. FCSD is uplifting for all those involved with it and is most worthwhile to support.

Donor

Rating: 5

Our son loves going on outings with Friendship Circle. Volunteers pick him and take him to barbecues, horse rides, bowling events, professional baseball games, visits to the downtown waterfront, etc. Friendship Circle makes for one of the few things he has to look forward several times a month. It's a great organization that operates on a tiny budget and it deserves our support.

Liora G.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Friendship Circle San Diego is AWESOME!!!! My kids love going to the fun program that are happening throughout the year. Their favorite is Purim. The director puts her heart into it, and it shows. Friendship Circle San Diego deserves all the acknowledgments. We want this program to continue and expand. GO FRIENDSHIP CIRCLE SAN DIEGO!!!

Lorri B.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our son has always had trouble maintaining friendships. At 8 years old, he spends most days playing adventure games by himself or with us, but not with any peers. His typical peers don't understand him and are afraid of his behaviors. They just don't want to be his friend. Lucky for us, we found The Friendship Circle of San Diego. He so looks forward to weekend outings where he is paired with a trained teen volunteer to be his friend for the day. He asks me every week - "Is this a Friendship Circle weekend?" The smile on his face at these events is priceless. Recently, the Friendship Circle invited families to join them at a baseball game with the Padres. Our son cannot sit still for a ballgame, but the volunteer followed him around the whole day and got him involved with swinging a bat at an onsite kids' diamond. He was up to bat twice and scored! He was so excited! We would have never had the opportunity or the energy to take him ourselves to a game and he will never forget the experience. With events every month, sometimes twice a month, there is plenty of opportunity for him to be out in the community with friends. We would love to have Friends at Home visits once the program expands into our area. As we live in the rural outskirts of town we are on a waiting list, but having heard from others, this program will be a wonderful opportunity for him to have friends come to the house and visit him. He will be so excited and happy when this happens.

4

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Friendship Circle of SD has helped my brother who has a very rare syndrome emensly. Every time I speak with him, he tells me about the next activity or event coming up. Thanks to Friendship Circle, he now has a social, educational and stimulating schedule to keep him busy during evenings and weekends. This is very important to me, since I live in Europe and am unable to spend time with him myself. I am a program director of an international European non-profit organization. I have extensive experience with non-profit organizations, and I have been very impressed with how efficeint friendship circle is run both with focus on every detail of the programs themselves, the care for each individal involved, and in the meticulous budgeting of the organization. I feel confident when donating to Friendship Circle, because almost all resources are spent directly on providing programs. I wish it were possible to make more funds available to Friendship Circle which in turn would benefit more special needs children and provide them with more programing.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 4

I volunteer at the Friendship Circle and I have so much fun with it. It doesn't only benefit the families with special needs, it also benefits the volunteers. I have learned so much from the hours I have given and have grown in a spiritual way as well.

3

Former staff

Rating: 5

The Friendship Circle is an amazing program, being that it is a program where everyone benefits. The child or adult with special needs gains a friend, and the volunteer gains a real sense of sensitivity, friendship, and responsiblilty. Elisheva has done an amazing job of integrating all age ranges of both "friend" and volunteer, througout the entire San Diego area, a true accomplishment.

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

My son is on the autism spectrum, and although he is desperate to have friends and have fun, he has not been successful in making friends. For the past three years he has benefited so much from the volunteer teens who come to our home twice a week and play with him. He has grown so much socially, and his self-esteem has improved as he feels liked, valuable, and that he matters. These wonderful volunteer boys have completely changed my son's life. They are incredible. Thank-you Friendship Circle for the important work you do in improving the quality of life for so many children with disabilities.

3

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Friendship Circle of San Diego is an awesome program. Every program that my kids and I have gone to, have been incredible. The program is run in such a professional way, and always geared to the kids. I can't wait for my oldest son to be old enough to volunteer. There is so much to learn for him. I just want to say "hats off" to Elisheva the Director and to her staff. Keep up the good work.

2

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

The Friendship Circle is a unique and effective organization that provides children the opportunity to experience, learn and have fun with teen mentors. Not only do the teen volunteers benefit from meaningful one-on-one relationships with their assigned partner, the participants benefit from the opportunity to pair with "typical" kids, a much needed dynamic in building social integration skills. Hats off to EliSheva and her growing team!

2

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

My experience has been extremely positive, both as a volunteer playing music at events, as well as bringing my adult sister to participate in women's events. EliSheva has really filled a long existing need in our community, which benefits not only the disabled population, but also the teenagers who volunteer to befriend the clients served by Friendship Circle. I am hopeful that she will be able to continue to offer these important services for many years to come.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am a Music Therapist, Special Education teacher and a volunteer for Friendship Circle of San Diego. Several times I was asked to set up a Music Resource room for parents or volunteers with their children to come and participate singly or in small groups. The activities were often related to holiday celebrations which added to the interest and enthusiasm of all concerned. I also helped to lead the entire assembly for one holiday celebration with the help of other musicians,teachers, volunteers and all the parents who came with their children. I am extremely impressed with all the activities of the San Diego Friendship Circle. First of all, the variety of activities offered are inspiring: from concerts, picnics, boat rides, horsebackriding, holiday gatherings of all varieties, which always include wonderful meals, foods and snacks which add to the awakening of all sensory experiences. Most impressive is the quality and committment of the volunteers, both teenagers who may become professionals in these fields some day and caring adults as well. This organization has a warm and efficient way of bringing the community together for activities and fund raising walks. Young people involved do become closer friends and the cooperation and volunteerism encouraged is phenomenal. It is a great source of comfort and support for so many parents with this added challenge of special needs children. As a grandmother of an extremely limited special needs child, who passed away at age 19, I experienced first hand the stress on my daughter's family, even though I helped when I could. Teenage volunteers who came on Sundays and holidays to help with his care, and also brought him to activities were so appreciated. They became like a part of our family as well. I was so touched and comforted by their involvement and I am so thankful for all the volunteers involved here in San Diego.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

I am a parent of a young man with disabilities and I was absolutely delighted to find Friendship Circle. I had not previously found any place at all where my son could be offered amazing experiences with non-disabled peers in a positive, safe, and supportive environment and where I have been offered beautiful friendships and parent support with the most caring and understanding people.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have had the privilege of volunteering on an occasional basis for the Friendship Circle. Every time I have had the opportunity to be involved, it has been a rewarding experience for me. I particularly enjoy watching my daughter's involvement as a volunteer. I think we get more out of helping the Friendship Circle than the Circle gains from our participation.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

The Friendship Circle is one of best things that happened for my sister. Over the past several years that my sister has been attending the Friendship Circle events/activities it has brought learning, joy, confidenence, acceptance, growth & friendship with other adults with disabilities. The is the best thing that has come into my sister's life

Client Served

Rating: 5

I can not tell you how wonderful Friendship Circle of San Diego has been to my Grand-daughter. I have custody of her and not only have they helped her, they have helped me in untold ways. The amount of support that has been offered is AMAZING! Every activity is well run and tons of fun to boot.

Client Served

Rating: 5

The Friendship Circle in SD has strong leadership and offers a wealth of program opportunities for socialization and recreational fun. From horseback riding, sailing, bowling, miniature golf, crafts and games, holiday parties, the zoo and animal encounters to a magic show. We have found the dedicated volunteers to be sincere, warm, friendly, creative, and prepared. They have helped and encouraged our 24 year old daughter to join in and get involved with every event she has attended while being sensitive to her personal level of comfort. The Friendship Circle has helped her to develop better confidence and self-esteem in a variety of social situations while giving joy and a sense of belonging. For the past 2 years Annie, a volunteer, has visited our home for a weekly game of scrabble with our daughter. They have developed a warm and caring friendship filled with trust and conversation. The quality of our daughter's life is very much enhanced because of Annie and The Friendship Circle.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Friendship Circle is an amazing organization! Not only do they pair up children with disabilities with "friends" that allow parents some respite time, but all their events are of high quality and are set up to appeal to a variety of biological and developmental age groups.

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

Friendship Circle SD fills a huge void in the community, linking children with delays with a typical peer. The people I have encountered running the program have been some of the most caring and generous people you will ever meet. T cannot say enough about this organization and the great work they do each and every day on behalf of our children. My son loves the sports club they have and looks so forward to their monthly meetings. Elisheva Green and Rabbi Mendy and all of the other volunteers do an amazing job and we as parents of special needs children are so grateful to have Friendship Circle here in S.D.

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

The Friendship Circle in San Diego is a great organization - that has a simple, extremely important mission - providing services to those with special needs. All the people involved with the FC from the director on down - to the volunteers are wonderful, caring individuals. We started working with them a few months ago, and it has been wonderful.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have volunteered for Friendship Circle. It has been a magnificant experience. Volunteers like myself strive to make the world a better place by volunteering and creating a sense of Unity. As I write I this I think of that famous song "We Are The World We Are The Children." So Everyone Lets Volunteer And Make The World A Better Place. Hillel Rissman

3

Volunteer

Rating: 4

I have found it very rewarding to help Friendship Circle. I was asked to play the guitar for some of their events. I saw so many children enjoying themselves at a number of activities on different days. Their parents seemed very happy too. I also have a teenage daughter who volunteered and it was a very valuable experience for her too. She may major in special education now.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Friendship Circle does not only help people in obvious need. My children attend FSC's events with pride and always looking forward to the next event. I am in awe to witness how the devoted volunteers love, care, give warmth and supporting hands to the ones who need it. I am extremely grateful to Friendship Circle to introduce and teach unconditional acceptance to all of us.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Friendship Circle has left an everlasting impression on so many peoples lives. I volunteered with Friendship Circle throughout my college years. I was matched up with a friend with special needs. Most of the time her and I would just hang out and do what most friends do with each other, have fun. Other times we would go to the planed events which were always a blast. I have made some amazing friends that to this day I still keep in touch with. This organization brightens the lives of so many people both with and without special needs.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

This organization makes my son feel normal, accepted, appreciated and loved. When they play baseball and my son does not understand all the rules or cannot always hit the ball great, they say, that's 3 1/2 outs, you're ok, keep trying. They have wonderful volunteers who cheerfully take over, giving parents time to rest, socialize and learn new skills when dealing with children with disabilities. Everyone there is very nurturing and you feel like you can talk about the stress in your life without people lifting brows and not wanting to hear all your sad stories. They welcome your feelings, offer suggestions, praise and warm smiles.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

The Friendship Circle has been such an amazing part of my son's life for the past 4 years. He has autism and friends are hard to come by for him. When he attends the Friendship Circle events, his face lights up. He feels apart of a group and feels so welcome. He also enjoys when friends come to our home to play with him. He talks about it all week and plans the toys he will share with them.