Stuart I Raskas Friendship Circle of Illinois
The Friendship Circle’s mission is to empower today’s teens to bridge the gap between families of children with special needs and the rest of the community. Volunteers offer friendship as well as social and educational experiences, enriching lives and reaping the rewards of selfless giving. The Friendship Circle extends a helping hand to families who have children with special needs and involves them in a full range of social and Judaic experiences. The Circle’s unique formula introduces teenage volunteers to the children and their families, and through the shared experiences, all are enriched. The Foundation’s grant supports weekly home visits to children/young adults with disabilities by trained teen volunteers. The teen and child play games, do puzzles, bake cookies, or whatever they find most enjoyable to do together. The time spent together breaks down barriers between those who are differently abled and provides essential respite to parents, who are often full-time caretakers. It also supports CommUNITY Circle, which brings individuals of all abilities together for group community service projects. These gatherings promote inclusion, build self-esteem, and contribute to the work of other local nonprofit organizations. Past gatherings have included assembling toiletry kits for individuals experiencing homelessness for Connections for the Homeless, visiting the elderly at Sunrise of Highland Park, stocking shelves at multiple local food pantries, and a Highland Park challah bake & take, where participants baked one loaf of bread from scratch for themselves and took another home for a hungry neighbor.