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Friendship Circle of Virginia welcomes new board president

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By Tanya Buresh-Werby

Friendship Circle of Virginia (FCVA) is proud to announce our incoming new Board President and Richmond native, Helen Griffin (nee. Fine).

Helen Griffin

Helen has been involved with Friendship Circle for over a decade and has served on the board for the past year. FCVA is ecstatic to have Helen fill the shoes of former president, Dr. Nathan Zasler beginning in January, 2023.

Helen was born and raised in Richmond. In high school, Helen spent many hours volunteering at the Cerebral Palsy Treatment Center and the Virginia Home for Incurables. She worked on the staff of the first inpatient adolescent unit at MCV.

As a Navy wife, Helen traveled and moved often while raising 2 daughters. She previously served as President of Navy Relief in London England, President of Beth Israel Synagogue, Lexington Park, Md., President of the Officers Wives Club, Patuxent River, Md., and President of B’nai Israel Sisterhood, Norfolk.

Helen is currently serving on the Boards of the Weinstein JCC, Keneseth Beth Israel, and the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond.

“My first experience with a person with a disability was my baby brother, Henry A”H. He was born with one eye. Eventually, after years of surgeries in New York away from family and friends, he had a prosthesis.”

She continued, “When I was old enough, Inga Horowitz arranged for me to be a volunteer at the Cerebral Palsy Treatment Center here in Richmond. My next volunteer opportunity was The Virginia Home in Byrd Park. There was a resident only a few years older than I was, but she was not living with her family. She was in a facility only because she was a wheelchair user though she had full mental capacity. The lives of children with disabilities has improved so much over the decades in part because of organizations like Friendship Circle. ”

She continued,”Teenagers have the opportunity to build friendships with another young person with differing abilities. We all have challenges, some can be seen and some not. I was blessed with a niece, Allison A”H, who was on the autism spectrum and I watched the challenges she faced every day as she navigated our world. I am also blessed with a delightful great grandson who has faced many challenges since he was born, but with intensive early intervention I can observe his progress. My goal is to set a good example for my children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. I am humbled by the hardworking parents I meet at Friendship Circle events. I watch the joy on their children’s faces and on the faces of our teens. There is so much as adults  that we can learn from the bonds that are built through Friendship Circle. I look forward to sharing time with our adult and teen boards and all our Friendship Circle Families as we all work together to build a more inclusive world for everyone.”

The Friendship Circle Board of Directors governs and advises the organization, ensures programs and events align with its mission and vision, focuses on strategy, fiscal excellence, risk management, and program oversight.

Officers:

President – Helen Griffin

Treasurer – Karen Giles, CPA

Secretary – Marissa Marczak, Past Teen Board President, Neuroscience Student at Randolph-Macon College

General Board Members:

Kendra Campbell – Clinical Psychologist

Shruthi Chandrashekhar – Physician and parent of a child with disabilities

Harry Gewanter – Retired Pediatrician/Pediatric Rheumatologist

Rebecca Haine – Board Member

Peter Heyman – Pediatrician

Adele Karp – Board Member

Danny Kenyon – Director of Adult Day Support, SOAR365

Rabbi Yossel Kranz – Chabad of Virginia

Julie Marczak – Retired Special Educator

Jay McLaughlin – Rehabilitation Counselor

Carolyn O’Donnell – Special Education Teacher

Nathan Zasler – Physician, Former Board President

Nathan Lasler, MD

Friendship Circle thanks Dr. Nathan Zasler for the 3 years he has served as Board President leading the organization through a pandemic and recent growth.  He has always stepped up on behalf of the Friendship Circle, both personally and professionally and FCVA grew exponentially during the pandemic under his leadership. The organization also kicked off their first Charidy campaign during that time, which has been their single most effective fundraiser and allows FCVA to fund multiple impactful programs throughout the year.

During his tenure, Nathan led by example through personally reaching out to friends and family on behalf of FCVA to fundraise and assist in obtaining corporate sponsors for community wide events.

“I served as President of the Friendship Circle of Virginia Board for approximately the last 3 years. It has been a pleasure to serve in that capacity and I want to encourage those of you in the general community to get involved with the organization which has a history of doing great things with the disability population. In particular, our program has carefully matched teen volunteers one-to-one with children who have special needs providing the mentoring and friendships that these children seek.

He continued, “Our model promotes inclusion and builds social and recreational skills through meaningful social experiences at home and throughout the community for children, teens, and young adults with disabilities regardless of their level of ability. We celebrate the differences and similarities of every person valuing all as an integral part of our community. I really enjoyed leading this board and continue to plan to be involved. We wish Helen Griffin, our new chairperson, the best of luck in her new position and will be there to help as needed. Thank you very much.” – Nathan Zasler, MD

If you are interested in joining our board, contact info@friendshipcircleva.org.  To learn more about Friendship Circle of Virginia, please visit our website at www.friendshipcircleva.org.