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Mission Statement

Equipping, empowering, and providing inclusion to individuals with intellectual and developmental differences.

Our Founder


The Circle of Friends Ministry was founded in 1999 by Mertice Fehringer. Conceived out of a mother's love for her disabled daughter and driven by her passion to see people with disabilities given a safe platform to learn, grow, and thrive. Mertice knew breaking apart stereotypes and tearing down obstacles that were built upon ignorance and intolerance was the only way to see her daughter and all of God's children with disabilities respected and welcomed as active community members. The Circle was started with a handful of children with disabilities inside a Sunday School Class at IMPACT Church of Lake Wales. The Circle has now grown to provide day program services and various resources for individuals with disabilities and their families. 

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Circle Fact: The original logo was comprised of the drawn images of the very first children to attend the Circle of Friends Ministry, including the founder's daughter, Connie Fehringer, and Jennifer Zamora, the late daughter of the first joining parent, Rebecca Wood.

Our Purpose and Operations

The Circle of Friends Ministry, Inc. is a small, nonprofit, 501 (c) 3 organization, which provides services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. Our services are physically accessible to those living inside Polk County, Florida and virtual services are available nationwide to individuals with special needs 16 years and over. Our main funding is received by way of grants, personal and business sponsorship, and donations.  There are several services available and accessible to our clients and their families: P.O.P. Day Program, Reaching Hands Support Group, and respite activities. Our organization is dedicated to building a stronger community through education, outreach, charitable works, and housing.

Our main service is the Proclaiming Our Potential (P.O.P.) day training program, which is available for physical attendance by intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals 18 years old and up in Polk County, Florida, and for virtual attendance by disabled individuals 16 years old and up, nationally.  The P.O.P.  program provides training and skill-building activities in areas necessary to achieve a more independent lifestyle for our clients.  Our program participants are part of the P.O.P. Culinary Arts Group and the Overcomer's Performing Arts Troop, which are available to book inspirational performances by local churches and philanthropic organizations. 

The Reaching Hands Support Group was started in the Spring of 2020 to provide a safe place for the parents and caregivers of disabled children/adult children to share feelings, experiences, and resources. 

The Circle of Friends is a growing organization full of optimism and promise. Our vision for the future includes client housing, Friends Village, and an on-site business that will be the basis for our vocational training. We are hopeful to see other Circle of Friends Ministries open up across the nation in the future, as these services are desperately needed. For now, we continue to build, serve, and grow! 


333 Lime Ave, Lake Wales, FL 33853


Monday- CLOSED

Tuesday - Friday: 9 am - 4 pm

Saturday - CLOSED

Sunday- CLOSED

EIN: 59-3572022

Certificate of Exemption: 85-8012540021C-4 exp. 03/31/2025

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