Circle of Friends aims for inclusion through fellowship

Credit: Darby Rose Photography

Credit: Darby Rose Photography

Communities are part of the glue that helps you feel connected.

Diane Keen and her son, Haden, were involved at Hickory Flat United Methodist Church in Canton. Diane spent time in the church’s community garden and as a congregational health nurse. Haden was in the youth group. Despite Haden’s diagnosis in the autism spectrum, the youth pastor made sure he was able to participate and if needed, the support of an older adult was arranged.

Pivotal feedback from a town hall meeting in 2019 addressing the needs for young adults with Intellectual Development Disorders led Glenn and Diane Keen to co-found Circle of Friends. The top three concerns became the pillars for COF: socialization, supportive employment and supportive affordable housing. First-hand knowledge of the enhancement that generations offer, the couple added the intergenerational piece.

“While kids are in school they have services available to them and all kinds of activities, but when they turn 22 there is nothing. So now they are sitting at home on their parent’s couch playing video games. We don’t know that they are tucked away, hidden. That’s when this isolation comes in,” Glenn said. “We are really looking for community inclusion.”

To support the third goal of housing, supportive employment had to be addressed.

The coffee shop grew from the community garden concept and recently opened inside The Circuit, Cherokee County’s first co-working space located in Chattahoochee Technical College in Woodstock.

“Many of our young adults have been served all of their lives. They have never really been given an opportunity to thrive and step out of that box outside of mom and dad. We intentionally create that opportunity to move them out of that shell,” Stephen Taylor COF executive director said.

Each young adult has an older volunteer working with them. The Circuit Cafe provides gainful employment, a sense of purpose and the opportunity to interact with the Woodstock community.

The third goal of supportive affordable housing means a living community with people of different ages and abilities, true inclusion, not just those with IDD, said Diane. Members of COF are looking forward to the day when housing provides the independence they wish for.


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