FOX POINT, Wis. — On Friday, the Friendship Circle hosted a roundtable discussion highlighting the work they do. The hope is to spread that to many other organizations.
Representatives from the Department of Administration and many other nonprofits were in attendance.
The topic of conversation focused on how to expand services for those struggling with mental health and employment opportunities for people living with disabilities.
These two topics are something that Friendship Circle has been working on for years. They have worked out programming that best fits people’s needs.
Their hope is to share their ideas and expand this these types of services to more organizations.
Friendship Circle executive director Levi Stein said these are important topics that are affecting many in Wisconsin.
“82% of adults with disabilities are unemployed.” Stein said. “And that has to change. When it comes to mental health, there are close to three people who die from suicide each day in Wisconsin. This is impacting 20% of the population of people who are having thoughts of suicide. There is just no reason why we shouldn’t do something about it.”
Stein said he hopes more organizations can use their tools and training to make a larger impact across the state.
In the past few years, the Friendship Circle has made a difference in the Fox Point community and beyond.
They are known for their work helping those living with disabilities gain job skills, but they have recently expanded to mental health services.
Eva Antonoff recently graduated from high school. She is a part of the teen leadership group called “U Matter” at Friendship Circle.
Antonoff has struggled with mental health in the past and said she wants to use her experience to help others. “I was alone. I didn’t have any help, I didn’t have any support.” Antonoff said. “I was kind of on my own. No one should feel that amount of pain and feel that there is only one way out. Kids and teenagers, no one should feel like that.”
She said she’s grown over the years and is now able to help others in her position at Friendship Circle.
“I think that this is going places. Antonoff said. “I really want to reach more people in more communities. And I’m really glad to be a part of this to make a difference, and I’m really excited about the future of “U matter.”
Mental health is one of the newer initiatives Friendship Circle is working on. But their core started with workforce training for teens and adults living with disabilities.
Shira Miller has been a part of the workforce training program since the beginning. She has made her way up the ranks and is now a barista at the cafe.
“I learn a lot.” Miller said. “I learn how to make the coffee. My boss taught me how to be a pro and make coffee.”
These are the types of success stories Stein has seen over the years. He said he wants to be able to share opportunities like this, with others across the state.
“The goal is that the community will see what’s going on, reach out to us, and bring these important programs to your community and help make a difference,” Stein said.
Antonoff said she has seen a difference in herself since being a part of this program. She has also seen a difference in many others.
“Just being able to help other people and learn new things, so I can be better at it.” Antonoff said. “That makes me happy.”
Their goal is to strive for inclusiveness, and a better future for those struggling with finding a job and with mental health.