Friendship Circle is a ‘Labor of love’ – Sun Sentinel

Friendship Circle of Greater Fort Lauderdale at Las Olas Chabad Jewish Center can best be described as a “Labor of love” for all involved.

When I attended a recent dinner honoring the Special Needs organization’s supporters and volunteers, inspirational speeches, music and good food made for an amazing evening. Genuine support and camaraderie filled the synagogue. Through applause, smiles and some tears, you could definitely feel the electricity and excitement in the air.

As it is inscribed on its website, Friendship Circle’s unique approach brings together teenage volunteers and children with special needs for hours of fun and friendship. These shared experiences empower the children, while enriching the lives of everyone involved.

Rebbetzin Chayale Slavaticki was obviously overcome with emotion as she gave her opening remarks telling those in attendance that the program’s focus is on “abilities instead of disabilities.” I just had to contained myself from running up to hug the Rebbetzin as she spoke with such passion.

“What is imperfection if not another form of divine perfection! At the Friendship Circle, our volunteers truly embody this message and are able to tap into the perfection in each and every person and accept them for the beauty they contain which allows them to create incredible bonds and the truest of friendships with each of our special friends ,” said Directors Rabbi Chaim and Chayale Slavaticki.

“The Friendship Circle is one of the most heartwarming programs in South Florida,” Mayor Dean Trantalis said. “At the Circle, neighbors and friends gather to build community with young adults who have special needs, and together, they are creating an environment that fosters personal growth and lifelong relationships. I’m thankful to the 55 volunteers of the Circle for being leaders in the city and for changing the world with their selflessness and inclusiveness for our children and young adults with special needs.”

Ahead of the awards ceremony, entertainment was provided by Bob, Terry and Dan who make up the Harmonicats band. The trio dedicate their time weekly to help the young adults feel part of something special.

“Dan, Terry, and I have been working for years playing and singing for our hospitalized pediatric oncology patients (we continue to this day),” said Bob. “When the world shut down, we were at a loss; we did live shows via Facebook but wanted more.”

“I called my friend Rabbi Chaim Slavaticki and asked if there were any opportunities at the Chabad to play for friends. Serendipity put us together, and the dedication of Rabbi Chaim, Mrs. Slavaticki, and their amazing teams made us realize that we were supposed to be here,” Bob continued.

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“We have a lot of musical fun with our amazing friends and observing the natural team dynamics develop in our ‘Harmoncats’ is what life is about. Terry, Dan, and I often discuss how fortunate we are to have found our musical family at the Friendship Circle. Folks like to tell us that we are doing good things and our friends get a lot out of it. That may be true but we know, and answer, that we get a lot more out of our magical, musical time with our Friendship Circle family than anyone can ever imagine. We are blessed and grateful.”

During the awards presentation, honorees including volunteer Evelyn Gill, shared inspiring stories.

“At 14, when I was diagnosed with ADHD, it was Friendship Circle that taught me that even though I may be different, it’s my differences that make me unique,” ​​said Evelyn. “Every time I walk into Friendship Circle, I’m greeted with such love, even if I’m having the worst day, seeing my friends and feeling accepted puts me on a high that nothing else in life brings. Many people believe that volunteering at the Friendship Circle is to help others, but the friends you make here will help you and change your life forever!”

“My friends love me unconditionally, no matter what I have going on, and I love them just the same,” Evelyn concluded.

The evening ended with each person in the room pulling out the lights beneath their seats and waiving them in the air.

“When over 100 people get together in one room to celebrate a night of Friendship, this is 100 flames strong. Together we shine more brightly and more strongly. Together our flames can warm more hearts. And together we are unstoppable,” added Rabbi Chaim and Chayale Slavaticki.

The Friendship Circle is located at Las Olas Chabad Jewish Center, 1302 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. For more information, visit https://friendshipfl.org or call (754) 800-1770.

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