Coffee with A Purpose
By Guest Author Meghan Lindstrom, Canton Resident
Nestled on the edge of Woodstock’s Main Street lies Circle Of Friends Coffee Shop, a place where people of all abilities have joined together to tackle the needs of those in our community who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. Coffee warms the body, and watching individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities working diligently warms the soul. On your arrival at Circle Of Friends Coffee Shop you will be greeted with smiling faces and the rich aroma of fresh-brewed lattes. The pure joy on each face makes you realize the employees have great talents and capabilities. The idea for the shop was born after a group of mothers got together to socialize their young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). The parents knew, however, that socialization was not the only thing their offspring needed.After a town hall meeting in May 2019, the group formalized and called itself the Circle of Friends, a nonprofit with a goal to create a stronger community for people with IDD. It focuses on socialization, supportive employment, and supportive-affordable living, needs rarely met by young adults with IDD.
The coffee shop opened on February 22. “It’s bringing the awareness that’s going to change things in Cherokee County for people with disabilities,” explains Diane Keen, Circle Of Friends cofounder.In 2010 Diane and her husband, Glenn, dreamed of ways to help Haden, their son with IDD. Being a nurse and researcher at Kennesaw State University, Diane possessed the knowledge she needed, but she and Glenn needed the community on their side. Circle Of Friends gave them the hope they needed to continue working toward their goals for Haden and those like him.The members of Circle Of Friends wanted to give young adults with IDD the opportunity to thrive. In September 2020, their dreams started to become reality after one mother discovered something that could make a huge impact on young adults with IDD as well as the community. “We talked about opening a coffee shop. It would be a place of employment and also a place for socialization, so it would meet several needs,” Diane explains.The Circuit, a Woodstock coworking space, was accepting proposals for potential businesses. Circle Of Friends was granted a space in December 2020.
The new employees are thrilled to have a place where they can be successful while making new friends. These folks have a place to have fun while they learn new skills and become successful young adults. It is truly coffee with a purpose.Alex Bends, a crewmember at Circle Of Friends Coffee Shop, says, “This job means the world to me. It means being able to pay rent and be a normal person. My favorite part about working here is getting to be a team player and helping my coworkers.”Employment at the coffee shop is the first job for some of the employees, and it’s obviously their favorite place to be. Crewmembers are always full of joy. You will never leave Circle Of Friends Coffee Shop without a smile on your face and a delicious cup of coffee in hand. “The interactions among the crew, the volunteers, and the customers are truly amazing,” says Diane.The community has received the shop with open arms. To show support, some people have volunteered to help, and many visit to see their favorite crewmembers.
Cafe Manager Jacci Holmberg says the job is her newfound passion. Formerly a teacher, Jacci accepted the position because she felt called to work with the people at Circle Of Friends. “My favorite part is getting to know the crewmembers individually and seeing all they have to offer. It’s jaw dropping just being with them,” says Jacci. “I have never met an organization and a group of people so passionate about what they’re doing. I am very happy to be a part of it. I’m able to be with them, give them supportive employment, and watch them take the next step—inclusive living. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”The Circle Of Friends organization is expanding rapidly with more goals and meaningful purposes in mind. Its next design includes a supportive and affordable housing community where young adults with IDD can be successful on their own with the support from their beloved community of Cherokee County. “We hope we will all work toward inclusion,” declares Diane. “Our goal is to create a place where we can raise awareness so that people with disabilities are better included in the community,” Seeing happy people come together is well worth the visit, and the coffee is great too. To support Circle Of Friends and its coffee shop, visit circleoffriendsinc.org or grab a delicious coffee at 1 Innovation Way, Woodstock, Georgia.