Equipping, empowering, and providing inclusion to individuals with intellectual and developmental differences.
Fun 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, late daughter of first joining parent, Rebecca Wood.
Mertice Fehringer founded the Circle of Friends in 1999. The organization was conceived out of a mother's love for her daughter and driven by her passion to see people with disabilities given a place that serves as a safe platform to learn, grow, and thrive. Mertice wanted to see her daughter and others with special needs be respected as participating members of the community; thus breaking apart stereotypes and tearing down obstacles built upon ignorance and intolerance. The Circle was started with a handful of special need's children inside a Sunday School Class at IMPACT Church of Lake Wales and has now grown to provide day program services for individuals with special need's and their families.
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 nation wide 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, Enhanced Boutique, and our Garden. Our organization is dedicated to building a stronger community through education, outreach, and charitable works.
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 inside 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. 'n Lunch Box Culinary Arts Group and the Overcomer's Performing Arts Troop, which are available to book for 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 Enhanced Boutique was established to enhance our mission; promote overall well-being, give alternatives in body products, support local businesses, and provide our clients with opportunities for vocational training. All natural products are hand crafted and produced by staff who hold Food Handling Certification to ensure quality and safe production. Local Struthers's Orange Blossom Honey is offered for purchase. FDA approved loose leaf tea and tisanes are shipped from the Colorado Mountains and packaged into tea bags to be sold inside the Boutique to be taken home or consumed in the garden. Drink containers, great for tea and coffee, are also available for purchase. Aroma therapy items such as jewelry, oils, and gel pods are on display. You can also find some spiritually uplifting pictures in our home décor area.
The Garden offers a private and serene venue for rent that can comfortably hold groups of up to 22 for private parties or business events. Community members are welcomed to come and sit in our garden as well as request to purchase a seasonally offered hot or cold cup and/or pot of tea. Free public Wi-Fi is available for quiet study areas.
The Circle of Friends is a growing organization full of optimism and promise. Our vision for the future includes client housing and an onsite business that will help offset operation costs. We are hopeful to see other Circle of Friend's Ministries open up across the nation in the future. For now, we continue to build, serve, and grow!
Certificate of Exemption: 85-8012540021C-4 exp. 03/31/2025