The Friendship Circle launched in Central Jersey in 2001 with a simple mission: To provide individuals with special needs with social and educational experiences they would otherwise not have. It is our goal to bring greater awareness and understanding to the community of both the unique gifts and the unique desires of individuals with special needs, and encourage respect and empathy for those facing these difficult challenges.
At the heart of all the Friendship Circle’s programming is the belief that each and every individual can be a productive member of the community and benefit from the social support offered by one’s peers. We envision a world in which individuals with special needs and their families experience acceptance, inclusion, and friendship as valued members of society.
The Friendship Circle is dedicated to creating a supportive community for special needs children, their families and high school volunteers, giving them the opportunity to unearth their potential, make positive life choices, and realize their dreams.
Since 2001, The Friendship Circle has accomplished its mission by:
- Matching teen volunteers with special needs children and their families
- Developing a network of programs and services for children with special needs offered by caring adults and trained peers
- Creating a sense of responsibility and connection to the community for high school students and families of children with special needs through enriching educational and social opportunities.
- Providing workshops, lectures, programs and parties for parents of children who have special needs.
- Chana’le Wolosow: Chanale@friendsnj.com/ 732-536-2319, Ext. 205
Friendship Circle Director
- Moushkie Volovik: Moushkie@friendsnj.com/ 732-536-2319, Ext. 210
Volunteer Coordinator, Friends at Home Coordinator
- Liz Newman: Liz@friendsnj.com/ 732-536-2319, Ext. 202
Family Coordinator, Program Coordinator
- Sashi Deren: Fcprograms@friendsnj.com/ 732-536-2319, Ext. 204
Our Teachers & Group Leaders
- Ali Heitner:
Hello! My name is Ali Heitner, and I have happily worked for The Friendship Circle for the past three years. When I am not at FC I am a special education teacher. In the time I have been working for this amazing organization I have met many wonderful children and parents who give to others for no other reason than to lend a hand where it is needed. Friendship circle means having a child change your life without the need for words. Each week my heart is touched by the generous volunteers who give up their time to make a difference in the lives of so many individuals with special needs.
- Jennifer Miller:
- Glady’s Apuzzo: Sunday Social Junior Room
Gladys Apuzzo is employed by Monroe Township Board of Education since 2003 as a Special Education Paraprofessional. She enjoys working with children, especially those with special needs. Gladys currently resides in Monroe Township with her husband and two daughters. To me being in the Friendship Circle means being able to impact and help make a difference to the children in the program. The Friendship Circle is a wonderful program and I am thankful to be able to be a part of it.
- Alex Forst:
Hello, my name is Alex Forst. I currently attend Mercer County Community College in West Windsor, NJ, and am pursuing a degree in Nursing, where I then plan to specialize in Special Needs Pediatrics. I joined Friendship Circle of Central Jersey in December of 2013 as a volunteer, and became a staff member in April of 2015 where I now work with the YAD division, also known as the Young Adult Division. Additionally, I also staff the various different camps throughout the year. Prior to receiving a position with Friendship Circle, I worked closely with Special Needs children for over 7 years.
Working at Friendship Circle has been life-changing to me. There is no greater reward than to be able to have such an amazing opportunity to work with this special group of individuals, along with the volunteers. By doing so, I get great pleasure by being able to make a difference in the life of each child. I look forward to continuing on this amazing journey by working for this wonderful organization – The Friendship Circle.
- Amanda Grossbaum:
- Shari Pilcz:
My name is Shari Pilcz. I hold my BA in Elementary and Special Education and I’m in Grad School for my Masters in Behavior Analysis (BCBA). I work in a preschool disabled classroom and love it. Working with the special needs population is my passion and I’m grateful to be part of the Friendship Circle Family!
- Arielle Platt:
- Birttany Alicastro:
Hello! My name is Brittany Alicastro. This is my first year working at Friendship Circle and I am thrilled to be part of the family. Outside of Friendship Circle I am a 4th grade Special Education teacher. I absolutely love what I do and hope to be able to make a difference in children with special needs’ lives both in the classroom and at Friendship Circle.
It’s hard to express how much working at Friendship Circle means to me. I am continuously amazed and touched by the individuals I spend my Sundays with; both the children and volunteers. I am so thankful to be
able to work with such special individuals who brighten my day every time I see them. It is an indescribable feeling to see all the smiling faces every week and know that I helped put it there. I feel lucky to be a part of such an amazing organization that means so much to so many people.
Hi, my name is Ethan Kempner and I am a sophomore at Marlboro High School. This is my third year involved in The Friendship Circle. This is my first year as a president. In the past, I participated in The Bowling League, Basketball, Sports and Swim and Friends at Home. Helping these children and seeing them have fun is a great feeling that I think everyone should experience. I love the fact that I can brighten someone’s day and change a life!
Hi my name is Jared Kempner and I am a junior attending Marlboro High School. I have been active in The Friendship Circle for the last 2 years. During that time I was involved in Bowling, Basketball, Sports and Swim and Friends at Home. I also assisted in organizing and fundraising Walk for Friends. I love being involved in The Friendship Circle because I know I have made a positive impact on someone else’s life. I enjoy helping our special friends and being the best part of their day. I like making other people happy.
Hi, my name is Emily Morris and I am a junior at Colts Neck High School. The past two years I have been volunteering at The Friendship Circle have made a more profound impact on my life than I ever could have imagined. I have learned so much about communicating, caring for others, and being a good a friend. I am always excited to volunteer with one of my buddies, whether it be at Sunday Circles or Sports and Swim. I love knowing I’m making a positive impact in the lives of my new friends, and have come to realize they have made an equally large impact in my own life. I also look forward to volunteering every week because seeing a smile on my buddy’s face always puts a smile on mine. Without The Friendship Circle I truly believe I would not be the person I am today.
Hi, my name is Nolan Rynecki and I am a senior at Manalapan High School. Throughout my high school career I have been involved in multiple activities, but none have altered my life in the way that Friendship Circle has. When I joined Friendship Circle my sophomore year, I never expected to fall in love with the program immediately. Rather than serving as a volunteer, I was a “buddy” that engaged in activities with my new friends. The atmosphere is always warm and welcoming, whether we are all cooking or having a Zumba lesson. My experience in The Friendship Circle helped me mature in many ways and develop my ideas about relationships; now I feel confident befriending anyone in the program. Friendship Circle has taught me that friendship is not word-based; rather, it is an exchange of feelings and inspiration. I am honored to serve as a president and help out the lives of my friends who equally impact me each time I step foot in for another fun-filled day at Sunday Circle
My name is Daniella and I’m 16. I’m a Junior in Freehold High School. When I first walked into a Sunday Fuday event at Monmouth Gymnastics, I never imagined that Friendship Circle would become such a momentous part of my life. Now, three years later, I am about to start my second year as a president of Friendship Circle of Central Jersey and I am completely in love with Friendship Circle. I am constantly involved in events and programs. This past year, I went to Gym & Swim every Thursday and Teen Scene every Sunday. My dedication to Friendship Circle is immeasurable and the sole reason that I keep coming back is because I love and enjoy every moment I spend here. I look forward to seeing my special friends every week because I love putting smiles on their faces and spending time with them. Furthermore, I love that they can always put a smile on my face as well. When people come to friendship circle expecting to give back to their community and make kids or adults with special needs feel loved and happy, they are not only successful in their mission to make a difference, but surprised to find out that the experience is actually mutual. I know for a fact that I have learned from and enjoyed my time with all of my special friends just as much as they have from me. I learn something new from every friend I volunteer with. Frienship is the most fulfilling, comforting, and heartwarming feeling, and it is great to know that anyone can count on Friendship Circle to provide a friendship experience on a whole other level. I can’t wait for the upcoming volunteer year and for all the new friends I know I will make!