Philly Friendship Circle Annual Report '21-'22

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ANNUAL REPORT Thank you for being our partners Each of us has the capacity to build communities and infuse them with life so that every individual becomes a source of inspiration and carries that energy forward. - From the Wisdom of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

FROM OUR CO-FOUNDERS We were humbled by our warm community stepping up this fall as we #opened4friendship and kicked off the new year together. This outpouring of love and enthusiasm encouraged us at every season throughout the year. Through ups and downs, through thick and thin, YOU our amazingly committed supporters - are there as our anchor, our support, our cheering squad. Your friendship inspires us to face every challenge with strength and without compromising on our vision of an inclusive and caring community. Thank you for your generosity and support.

Chani and Zev Baram

Friendship Circle has made such a huge impact on my life. “In 7th grade, I fell in love with this supportive and inclusive community. Five years later, I still look forward to coming to Sunday Circle every week and being with the people who make me happiest.”

“One of the challenges of being the parent to a child with special needs is the feeling of being very alone, like nobody understands the needs of our child. In seeking support and solace, one of the things that became apparent was that I needed community, especially as someone not native to this area. My sense of isolation and loneliness was really lifted after finding Friendship Circle! They have become part of my extended family.”


“It means so much to us that the program is free of charge.It feels more like an organic community instead of just another program. Thank you so very much for this.”

“‘Mommy, they remember me even though they haven’t seen me in two years!’ My daughter feels so included when she gets something delivered from FC.”

“Now that I no longer attend Hebrew school, FC is a place where I can continue to connect with other Jewish people in a meaningful way. We celebrate the holidays and do fun activities and packages for almost every occasion. It has helped show me how Judaism connects and brings people together.”

“Pre-FC, we didn’t have typical family friends. Being older parents with younger kids, especially having a child with special needs, made it hard to get out. So having a nice or fun event to see a community that accepts you - not just your child, is HUGE!”

“At FC, there is an atmosphere that each of us have unlimited potential and we are all truly treated as equals. This makes the friendships we create even more caring and genuine.”

“It can be challenging to bring Judaism alive at home, and not just in the synagogue. I love that Happy Hour and Sunday Circle help bridge that gap and reinforce Jewish holidays and rituals for our family.”

Friends 18 years and older

GROWING TOGETHER Philly Friendship Circle is turning 18 - as are many of our friends. Over the years, many families expressed concern that their children would eventually “age out” of the FC they knew and loved as children. Coming back to in-person programming this year provided a unique opening to reset and create new age-appropriate opportunities, distinctly more grown up than the FC of their childhood. Now, with our renewed commitment to expand our offerings, friends 18 and over can continue to socialize, discuss, laugh, and enjoy the authentic FC experience for years to come. The popular Young Adult Happy Hour, born from the “Zoom era,” served as the foundation for even stronger bonds that continue to build through a variety of new, in-person opportunities.

“It was great for me to be back in person and see my (virtual) Happy Hour friends!”

This year we h!ted

34 YOUNG ADULT HAPPY HOUR ZOOMS = 556 Hours of Virtual - but very real -

FRIENDSHIP “I’m so comfortable here and know that you will love me however I am.”

DEEPENING FRIENDSHIPS Month by month, we’ve been thrilled to witness the organic friendships that are developing and strengthening through our young adult programs. Anyone lucky enough to experience the palpable enthusiasm of this great group can’t help but come away energized. Two of these friends, Eric and Tyler, proudly shared their friendship at this year’s VIP gala event. Their banter brought a smile to the face of anyone watching. United by a sense of humor and inner joy, they have “sealed the deal” on their friendship through their continued opportunities at FC.

Alumni continue to stay connected through “FC Talks,” a series of speakers coordinated and led by our Alumni Leadership Committee. We explored the benefits of equestrian therapy and learned how to make inclusivity a natural part of our day-to-day lives.

Friends 17 years and younger


It’s all about having fun with friends while being sensitive to one another’s needs. This year was devoted to reinventing what friendship looks like and finding creative ways for friends to stay connected by reimagining programs at every season:

Playing with friends in wide-open outdoor spaces in the comfort of their own front or backyards.

to connect with friends who could not attend in-person programs.

Finishing off the second half of the year in-person and indoors…. finally!

Spotlight on our NEW Fall “Revamp” program: Sundays@Home 2.0: The fun of Sunday Circle + the intimacy of Friends @ Home = Safe outside pods with individualized attention from professional Friendship Experts while enjoying activities based on our friends’ unique interests.

FINDING FRIENDSHIP & HEALING: JAKE & TALIA In Jake, Talia met not only a dear friend, but the cure to her lifelong anxiety. Over the four years that they’ve participated in Friends @ Home, they’ve learned about each other and the power of language and communication. Word exercises, games, and practice taught Talia to pour her anxiety and frustration into the soothing pages of her journal, or to speak them aloud to the sympathetic walls. “When spending time with Jake, my world stopped, and as we delicately wrote sentences onto paper, anxiety was slowly lured out of my body.” In Talia, Jake met a kindred spirit who taught him the value of patience and the power of friendship to make every activity full of fun and excitement. You can tell when Talia is about to come over - just look at Jake’s face, full of eager anticipation. Their friendship has inspired Jake to try new things - and to enjoy them!

A LOOK AT THE NUMBERS Expenses Total: $681,041



Programming: $543,641 Administration: $113,600 Development & Fundraising: $23,800

Revenue Total: $684,396 Grant Walk 2021

Gala 2022

Gala 2022: $347,706 Walk 2021: $169,939 Grant: $73,600 General Campaign: $ 42,645 End-of-Year Donations: $27,904 Chai Club (Monthly): $10,992 Endurance Event: $6,980 Corporate Matches: $4,250 Pushka: $380

“I grew up hearing the term ‘tzedakah’, but my experience at FC has taught me that it’s more than just charity; it’s a broader sense of doing what’s right. It taught me how to carry that sense of righteousness in all aspects of my life.” - Teen Friend

SUPPORT INCLUSIVE FRIENDSHIPS Inquire about: endowment, naming opportunities, event sponsorships, and legacy gifts.

Lifecycle Events: In honor or memory of a loved one Recurring Monthly Donations Matching Gifts Donations of Stock or Security MORE WAYS TO DONATE •

Online shopping: Amazon Smile (Friendship Circle Philadelphia Region Inc.)

United Way Donations: 4454

OUR STAFF Chani Baram

Amanda Thum

Chief Relationship Officer

Outreach & Engagement Coordinator

Zev Baram

Samantha Holzer

Chief Executive Officer

Program & Curriculum Coordinator

Meryl Sussman

Shannon Conway

Chief Operating Officer

Office Administrator & Executive Assistant

OUR TEAM OF FRIENDSHIP EXPERTS Cait Gilmartin, Lead Behavior Specialist Avriel Finder, Meghan Garrett, Elizabeth Gladstone, Caitlin Oleski, Tiffany Riddle, Stephanie Solomon

BOARD OF DIRECTORS Julie Axelrod, Rebecca Cohen, Tracy Gordon, Howard Levin, Kami Verne, Jaime Gordon, Sharon Levin

Philly Friendship Circle provides organized physical and social structures to support inclusive friendships, connections, respite, and fulfillment for youth with special needs, young adult volunteers, their respective families and the Jewish community at large. Through fun and interactive experiences, these relationships bring a sense of joy and meaning to the Friendship Circle community and beyond.

PO Box 25067 Philadelphia, PA 19147 (215) 574-1765

With Support From:


Founded by ChabadLubavitch