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Teen volunteers reach out to those with disabilities

As complex as these disorders might be, the volunteers become well versed in them as they are required to go through training before visiting the children, according to Liba Andrusier, director of the Capital District program.

"They are trained by a psychologist and behavioral therapist," she said.

Despite training, Andrusier said that in the Friends at Home program, parents are home while their children are playing with the volunteers.

"The parents have to be home since many of the volunteers are under 18," said Andrusier. "They're in a house, but parents still get a rest because they don't have to watch their kids."

Trish Washburn, another parent who brings her two children to the Sunday Circle, said she has not yet had volunteers from the Friends at Home program visit her children but she plans to do so next year.

Washburn said that the programs of the Friendship Circle are good for her children because they give them the opportunity to choose what activities they want to participate in.

"It's great because they give them a variety of things to do," said Washburn. "If they feel uncomfortable about doing any of the activities, they're not forced to do them. It's just a great place for them to grow and meet people."

Meeting people is the premise of the program, and benefits not only the children, but the volunteers as well.

Amanda Eckert, 17, of Delmar, said "getting to know kids very well," has made her experience as a volunteer memorable.

Sixteen-year-old Tana Gordon, said, "This year has been kind of cool," because of all the new people she met.

Saffi Rigberg, 18, of Voorheeseville, said she graduated from high school early this year, and in her transition time between high school and college, she has not only been interested in meeting new people, but in helping people in need by volunteering at the Friendship Circle, as well as at St. Peter's hospital.

"For me, personally, volunteering makes me aware of the people I live with in my community," she said, adding that she plans to attend college at SUNY College at Fredonia and specialize in helping children.

The group will continue to meet monthly at the Sunday Circle program and visit the children's homes throughout the year.

For information, contact Liba Andrusier at liba@capitalfriends.org or call 438-4220.

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