Pathways Guides: How To Establish a Community of Friends

By Mary Ellen Goodwin.

Developing, Supporting, and Sustaining Friendships

  1. Recruit volunteers to build 1:1 friendships with people supported. Use church bulletins, personal connections, look for public speaking opportunities.
  2. Have Volunteer fill out application, CORI, and interview. When interviewing the volunteer, find out what skills, interests, and activities they have and enjoy.
  3. Think about an individual you know who has similar interests. This is how we make friends naturally by having something in common.
  4. Once you decide on a match, contact both the volunteer and the individual to ask if they would like to meet.
  5. Set up a time for them to meet along with a staff that primarily works with that individual and knows them well. I usually like to have everyone meet for dinner and let the individual choose where we will have dinner to make them more comfortable.
  6. After dinner, I ask both the volunteer and the individual how they thought things went and if they would like to get together again.
  7. The next time we get together, we usually meet where the individual lives for coffee, tea, or something light. This gives the volunteer an opportunity to see where the individual lives and who they live with.
  8. After that I visit again: ask both parties how they felt it went and if they would like to continue getting to know each other. If both agree, then phone numbers are exchanged and I step back and let both people know that I am available to provide support if needed.
    • Please note that you need to be prepared to give training to the volunteer.
    • You also need to periodically check in and see how things are going.
    • Good to have staff keep some kind of activity log or way of documenting when and how often they get together.
    • You may need to help staff and individual learn good hospitality skills.
    • Can’t stress enough, this is a “real friendship” which means it may
      have had an artificial introduction, but now it needs to develop normally. Reciprocity is a crucial part of being friends so this should be encouraged with the individual you assist. I tell volunteers this is just like any other friendship: if you go out to eat, split the bill; or if one
      pays one week, the other pays the following etc. (You get the idea.) Also on special occasions a card or gift may be applicable. (You may need to help to facilitate this.)
    • One more important note: these friendships/relationships are outside the program realm. This means when plans are made, they are not cancelled because of a behavior plan. Separate from program issues!

For more information contact:
Mary Ellen Goodwin, Community Connector
You can also find a circle facilitator through

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