Communication Builds Our Community

Circle of Friends Celebrates New Campus With Ribbon Cutting

Nearly 100 guests joined the elated leadership of the Circle of Friends to celebrate their new campus with a ribbon cutting ceremony and reception on June 22. The longest day of the year was perhaps symbolic of the long effort of the local charitable group to achieve their dreams of a permanent home.

Dedicated to supporting, teaching, and perhaps in the near future, housing permanently-disabled adults, the Circle of Friends Ministry recently relocated from their cozy downtown location to a former church at 333 Lime Avenue. The new facility, complete with a large kitchen, dining hall, classrooms, offices, and room to grow, is many times larger than their former home.

"We are the only adult program in Lake Wales, and this building which comes with property that can be developed for our Supported Living Friends Village project, provides us with the ability to enroll and serve more students," said Friends Executive Director Crystal Higbee.

The new building is being leased until the group can raise the $1.5 million needed to buy it from New Hope Baptist Church, a challenge Higbee called "daunting."

"We are determined to make it happen and put in all the necessary work to build connections and relationships to make it happen because our special needs community have so little resources as it is," Higbee said. Higbee took over the administration of the group last year.

The program was founded in the 1990s by Myrtice Kelly, who was inspired to act by the special needs of her own daughter. During the ceremony Kelly shared the history of the group, and invited anyone with a special need to visit the campus and discuss available resources.

Kelly related the growth from a once-a-week class in a church to a small office, eventually receiving the support of local resident Thomas Rumfelt, who helped them acquire their former location on Stuart Avenue. That building will be sold to help pay for the expansive new campus.

"The housing we are diligently working to bring to fruition will provide a home for the intellectually and developmentally disabled who are not quite able to live as independent of life necessary to be a resident at other IDD housing developments," Higbee told the LakeWalesNews.

"Parents will be able to rest easy knowing that when they pass on their child will have a home in a loving environment," Higbee added. She described it as one "that is set up to assist residents with their unique needs, promote growth and independence, and...celebrate and acknowledge their child's gifts and talents."

 

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