An Extension of Wonderful Friends and Wonderful Coffee

Circle of Friends, a nonprofit, creates opportunities for people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities [IDD] in Cherokee County. It makes affordable living, fraternization, and supportive employment accessible and available, because employees work while interacting with the community. The organization has been operating Circle of Friends Coffee Shop at The Circuit Café at Chattahoochee Technical College in downtown Woodstock since February 2021. Now Circle of Friends continues to promote inclusion within the community by introducing a second location in Hickory Flat.

A Place to Gather and Grow

The Circle of Friends team is ecstatic to have received a $100,000 grant through federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act for the new project. With this grant and support from Cherokee County Board of Commissioners, County Manager Geoff Morton, and the U.S. Department of Treasury, the organization’s leaders can turn the dream of Flourish Café into reality. “A place to gather and grow” is the exciting new theme for the upcoming café as it experiences growth into the second location as well as the welcoming community it inhabits.

Circle of Friends is much more than a cup of coffee. It is an opportunity for adults with IDD to step into the real world and prove themselves as capable of much more than they were allowed to attempt in the past. Inclusiveness and involvement for adults with disabilities have often historically been limited, but Circle of Friends and organizations like it are making strides to change the status quo.

Circle of Friends Director of Administration and Volunteerism Phyllis Deeb elaborates on its success by explaining, “When I see these guys stand a little taller because they have their own earned money, watch the smile and excitement on the face of a wheelchair-bound man with cerebral palsy playing cornhole, or see some of them participate in cooking classes to prepare their own meals, my heart swells in happiness that Circle of Friends is available. We have a long way to go, but we really are on our way.”

Empowerment through Employment

Devon Curtis, a dedicated barista at the downtown Woodstock location, is consistently willing to get the job done efficiently and says she thoroughly enjoys learning new material. She appreciates meeting customers who present smiles as they try some of the delicious coffee at The Circuit Café. Outside of work, Devon adores spending time with friends, attending Bible studies on Wednesdays, and going to dance classes on Thursdays.

Photo Courtesy of Circle of Friends

Devon Curtis (Photo Courtesy of Circle of Friends)

Devon is grateful for the resources and skills she has acquired from working. She emphasizes, “Some of my goals are to live independently and to learn life skills. Circle of Friends has helped me learn more skills that I can use when I live in my own apartment.” She and her fiancé, Scott, have recently been accepted into an apartment complex, an accomplishment that serves as a huge step in their lives.

Change for the Better

Nick Carberry, vice president of operations at Circle of Friends, helps coordinate its Senior Management team and serves as a liaison to the board of directors. He discusses the challenges coming up with the addition of Flourish Café and its new menu, which will include breakfast and lunch items. The new menu choices will also include fresh items that allow healthy options for the community.

Nick states, “Change is different, and change can sometimes be hard. There is a safety factor as well, which we are working hard to support. There is a type of new oven that is very adaptable to the needs our employees have and is phenomenal. There is a challenge of more inventory, more choices, but there is also more opportunity.”

Circle of Friends volunteer Jacci Jarvis, who helped open The Circuit location, is on board to assist with Flourish Café as well. She shares, “The number-one advantage to this [new location] is giving more work opportunities for adults with disabilities.” She adds that having a second location will afford Circle of Friends a space to host special events in the evenings and on weekends.

Photo Courtesy of Circle of Friends

Matthew Taylor and Nick Carberry (Photo Courtesy of Circle of Friends)

Making More Room in the Circle

Through his work with Circle of Friends, Nick Carberry has also fostered opportunities in neurotypical community spaces for some of the adults with disabilities that work with the organization.

With Nick’s help Young Professionals of Woodstock [YPOW], part of the investor-driven 501(c)(6) organization IN WDSTK, welcomed Circle of Friends employees Kyle Snopek and Stephen Edge to participate. Now capable of exercising their skills at YPOW, Kyle and Stephen are flourishing. Nick explains, “Not only have I seen the growth and the excitement from Kyle and Stephen who participate every week, but also the newfound growth from neurotypicals as they accept [Kyle and Stephen] for who they are. These people realize Kyle and Stephen are more like them [than they thought].”

Photo Courtesy of Circle of Friends

Oscar Velez and Kyle Snopek at a YPOW meeting at The Circuit Cafe in Woodstock. (Photo Courtesy of Circle of Friends)

 

Photo Courtesy of Circle of Friends

Stephen Edge (Photo Courtesy of Circle of Friends)

Because of Nick’s drive for inclusion, people like Kyle and Stephen are granted opportunities aside from Circle of Friends that they would not have experienced before. Circle of Friends allows individuals to grow in all aspects of their lives to fulfill their full potential. With the addition of Flourish Café, even more opportunities are on the horizon for adults with IDD. Nick explains, “We are happy to do whatever it takes to employ just one more person who has IDD to continue our impact on the community.”

Save the Date! The second annual Circle of Friends gala fundraiser—aptly named “We’re on Our Way!”—is set for Friday, March 8, at His Hands Church in Woodstock. The 2023 gala raised $80,000 in support of Circle of Friends programs promoting inclusion, empowerment, and engagement.

 

Flourish Café will open at 2864 East Cherokee Drive, Suite F, in Canton.

 

 

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