Circle Of Friends Celebrates Grand Re-Opening Of Treasured Friends Gift Shop
by James Coulter
Whether you are looking for antiques or jewelry, greeting cards or home decor, knick-knacks or any other various novelty items, Circle of Friends Ministry has a little bit of everything to offer everybody at their Treasured Friends Gift Shop in Downtown Lake Wales.
Located along East Stuart Avenue, this small shop offers a quaint and cozy shopping environment with a down-to-earth small-town atmosphere. Best of all, the store is being used to train children and young adults with special needs, allowing them to do everything from sales to inventory, explained Mertice Kelley, retired owner and manager.
As the new store operates within the former location of the Lake Wales Senior Center, it hopes to continue the legacy of the old center by facilitating its senior citizen customers through a special discount.
“[We want to] help the seniors anyway we can help a senior citizen out, and it is a wonderful place for a senior to come out and volunteer,” Kelley said.
Katie Kinloch, a local resident, has been purchasing many gifts from the store for several years. Many of her favorite capes and tops have been purchased there, as have at least 50 of her favorite sashes, she said.
“I have been buying things for years, so [it is] a great place to buy gifts for your friends and family,” she said.
The newly refurbished storefront recently celebrated its grand re-opening on Wednesday, hosted by the Lake Wales Chamber of Commerce. The small ceremony featured a ribbon cutting with refreshments served inside, allowing guests to see the store and its merchandise selection for themselves.
Robin Gibson, Assistant Mayor, commended the store for re-opening, offering yet another small business in Downtown Lake Wales. In doing so, its opening coincides with plans for upcoming renovations within the next few years, he said.
“On behalf of the city, I want to welcome everyone here, and certainly welcome this facility behind me,” Gibson said. “I think it is coming during a wonderful time as far as the city is concerned…It is a wise decision to make a move like this at this time.”
For more than 20 years, Circle of Friends Ministry, a local non-profit organization, has been providing job and life training for children with special needs, offering them the life skills that they need to provide for themselves and live comfortably on their own in spite of their disabilities.
Nearly five years ago, Circle of Friends moved to their current location 105 E. Stuart Avenue in Downtown Lake Wales, where their students receive job training by helping to run the store and snack stop and even providing deliveries to local downtown businesses.
During that time, the ministry also formed a partnership with the neighboring Senior Center, allowing their organization to utilize its facilities for further job and life skill training while also assisting the senior citizens there.
However, since then, many of people in charge of the senior center have either moved or passed away, and the storefront used for its facility has remained closed and vacant for nearly a year, Kelley explained.
One day, while surveying the building and trying to figure out what to do with it, Kelly and a few other members were greeted by Pamela Lambert, who arrived at the old building to make them an offer.
“Pamela walked in and she offered to go into consignment with us,” Kelley said. “We don’t even have anybody to open the store. She said that she is very interested. She has come in here and has been here for about two months. She has worked and worked to remodel it and make it beautiful.”
Since then, the store was remodeled within two months and has been up and running. Now the storefront has been restored to life and is being used to sell novelty gifts, cards, and art, offering discounts to senior citizens and valuable training for students, Kelley said.
“The main thing is so our young people will have a place where they can job train,” she said. “That is mainly what it is for, for our young people.”
Kelley has high expectations for the newly refurbished store, especially now that it is under good hands with Lambert. If anything else, the store provides yet another thriving small business to the downtown scene, she said.
“It is a happy place, one of the happiest places in town,” he said. “We have good deals, good prices. So when you buy things from here, you will be helping support our young people. We hope for it to boom and to make Lake Wales more beautiful than what it was.”
Circle of Friends Treasured Friends Gift Shop is located at 129 E Stuart Avenue, Lake Wales, Fl 33853. For more information about Circle of Friends, call 863-679-2507, or visit their website at: https://circleoffriendsministry.org/