The Friendship Circle

While the doctors may have considered Dan developmentally delayed because of a rare chromosome abnormality, what wasn’t part of their diagnosis was his enormous heart. Dan truly loved everyone. He would greet all the guys with a bone-crushing hug or handshake, he always had time for others, and he genuinely cared about what they were interested in. Last spring Dan suddenly became ill and passed away a month later. Dan was an integral part of the San Diego Friendship Circle. He was a close friend of all the members of its adult program. For many of them, Dan was their only friend. Dan’s buddy would take him out weekly. Sometimes they went to a local amusement park but frequently they would visit someone else in the Friendship Circle’s adult club. Usually Dan would ask to visit someone who didn’t have any other friends, someone with little or no ability to get out. One of them said, “Other than my caseworker, Dan is the only one who ever visited me.” These friends were devastated by Dan’s loss. We arranged for a psychologist to meet with them but they said that wasn’t enough. They wanted to do something to remember Dan. Both in Dan’s memory and for the benefit of Dan’s friends, Dan’s Place was created. Dan’s Place is a monthly restaurant staffed by Dan’s friends as the chefs and servers.

The Friendship Circle

With great enthusiasm and pride they cook for and serve to a sold out restaurant each month. Dan’s friends are learning new skills, educating the community about how much individuals with special needs can do, and providing a monthly kosher dining experience in a city with almost no kosher eateries. We have had numerous requests to expand. We are still discovering how to be restaurateurs and remembering how happy Dan would be see some of his friends acquiring new skills and others joining happily together for a beautiful evening of fine dining.

At a recent gathering of parents of adult children with disabilities, their single greatest concern for their adult children was their ability to obtain a job. ​According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2017, 18.7 percent of persons with a disability were employed. In contrast, the employment-population ratio for those without a disability was 65.7 percent.

• Across all age groups, the employment-population ratios were much lower for persons with a disability than for those with no disability.

• Unemployment rates for persons with a disability were higher than for persons without a disability across all educational attainment groups.

The above statistics were a prime motivator for establishing Dan’s Place to begin to meet that need.


 

One of the members of the Friendship Circle’s Adult Program, Dan, passed away a few months ago. His friends in the Friendship Circle were devastated. Wanting to do something in his memory, Dan’s Place was created. It was these very friends who came up with the idea to create a restaurant in which they could learn, work together, and remember Dan.

Dan’s Place is part of Friendship Circle’s Adult Programs and focuses on providing vocational opportunities to adults with special needs. The restaurant teaches adults with special needs the skills of food preparation, cooking, hosting and serving. Dan’s Place provides a delicious dinner in a warm, relaxed setting. The restaurant is staffed by trainee chefs and servers who are part of the Friendship Circle’s adult program. Each trainee is paired with a volunteer who assists him or her with their tasks. The pilot program for Dan’s Place has been monthly. With its successful launch, the restaurant will open bi-monthly in the coming year. A gourmet chef is in charge of selecting mouthwatering menus and recipes. Attention is given to having healthy, fresh ingredients, and to having gluten free and vegetarian options. Another volunteer is in charge of overall décor and training the servers to properly set up the restaurant. A volunteer teacher is educating the restaurant staff in proper etiquette in dealing with the public. The Dan’s Place staff has been so proud of their accomplishments and new skills. They enthusiastically anticipate each event.

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