Koblin is a regular face at Friendship Circle, and plans to stay as long as she can.

Sponsored by Friendship Circle

Photography by Brett Mountain

Cookie Koblin’s grandson was just 3 years old when he was diagnosed with autism. She knew right away that it would be her job to help support her daughter’s family and find resources for her grandson. The family quickly found support through Friendship Circle, giving them hope they needed to navigate their needs.

“My family was so embraced by the Friendship Circle family that when the building opened and they started Lessons for Life, I knew I had to volunteer,” Koblin says. “My grandson is 23 now, and I will continue to be here every week as long as I can. Bassie and Levi Shemtov are truly showing people what kindness, patience and real love look like through this work.”

Cookie is a regular face at Friendship Circle’s Weinberg Village in the Ferber Kaufman Lifetown Facility on the Meer Family Friendship Center. When students arrive for their day at the Lessons for Life program, Cookie is often the first person they meet. Most days, she’s a “teller” at the facility’s Huntington Bank.

“The kids are so excited to see me because they know I’m going to give them money!” says Koblin. “We teach them how to count their money.Whether they can count or are verbal or nonverbal, it’s OK. We’re here to make them feel like it’s real life and they can experience it all in this safe place to learn.”

For Cookie, volunteering has given her the chance to see students learn and grow through the years, just like her own grandson.

“Lessons for Life is this beautiful thing that gives the students real education and takes them as far as they can go,” she says. “We’re all volunteers, but we get so much more than we give. I learn from these children. They can find laughter and provide joy in any situation.”

Through Friendship Circle’s Lessons for Life, students with special needs and teenage volunteers and classmates are learning not only how to navigate the real world, but also how to work with each other. Koblin says they are also learning how to recognize and encourage someone who is differently abled.

“Lessons for Life is teaching compassion, patience and that everyone is the same even if they are different,” Koblin. “Volunteering here has taught me what real love and kindness mean, not only for my own family, but also for everyone I meet.”

To get involved, go to

Read more: Friendship Circle’s Lessons for Life Offers Real-World Experience in State-of-the-Art Village