Community

Friendship Circle opens Mercer Island location

For families with a special needs child, a place where they can take their child and have some time for themselves is a gift, especially if it’s a welcoming place.

The Friendship Circle, opening an office/meeting space in a couple of weeks, in the Windermere Office Plaza on 77th Avenue S.E., will be just that place.

Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky is the executive director; his wife, Esther Bogomilsky, is the program director.

The rabbi said they serve all backgrounds and community members — anyone who needs help.

The organization provides respite time for families and also provides friends for their children with special needs, through teen volunteers. The Friendship Circle currently has programs at the Mercer Island Community and Event Center. Bogomilsky said they have musical therapy, Kung-Fu and many other programs for special needs children that involve them in a full range of social experiences.

Teenage volunteers are trained to interact with the special needs children, including kids who fall into the autism spectrum disorder group and the physically and mentally disabled.

“We have a wide staff of specialists in different areas who teach them (the teens) how to understand the sensitivity issues,” Bogomilsky said.

He said it’s great to see teens who want to be future leaders and who want to make a difference.

The child with special needs looks forward to their weekly visit and the opportunity to play with and learn from their older friends, and the teen volunteer learns the value of giving, and bringing a smile to the child’s face.

The child’s family gets needed respite and the pleasure of seeing their child become part of the community circle.

Bogomilsky said they chose Mercer Island for its central location. The new space will be used for small group meetings, teen training and a place for parents to come speak with a specialist who may be able to help their child.

“It’s a very pretty space, and we hope to be welcoming to families who are in need,” Bogomilsky said. “We’re here to help — we’re here to make friends.”

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