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2016 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Friends Life Community

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Developmentally Disabled Centers, Disabilities, Human Services

Mission: Friends Life Community creates opportunities for teenagers and adults with disabilities to develop socially, grow personally, and enjoy community as we share life together.

Results: We were founded in 2008 by four families with disabled children who were aging out of traditional care systems and a community advocate. These four families wanted more for their adult children, so they began meeting regularly in the basement of a church. By 2011, the program had grown so rapidly that we moved into our own facility on Granny White Pike, where the organization resides today. Now we serve approximately 25 Friends per day and 40 Friends and their families throughout the year. We keep a 5:1 client-to-staff ratio on a daily basis, ensuring the quality of our programming for each participant.

Target demographics: Teenagers and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities

Direct beneficiaries per year: 40 clients ("Friends") and their families

Geographic areas served: Nashville, Tenn.

Programs: All of our programs focus on three main goals: increasing independence, building relationships, and community inclusion. To that end, we have offer three service programs: Day Program, Social Club, and Career & Life Coaching. *Day Program* Operating Monday through Friday, 9:00am to 4:00pm, our day program is the heart of our organization. Our curriculum priorities include: (a) Service Learning: Weekly Service Learning opportunities connect our Friends to the city around them, opening doors to new friendships and relationships between individuals with disabilities and community members. By volunteering at local nonprofits, our Friends not only become more visible and active in the community, but also expand services to those in need. Service Learning opportunities provide the space to build job readiness skills—and résumés—through actual work experiences while contributing important causes. (b) Arts and Education: Our focus on arts and education fosters thought-provoking conversations, and opens doors to new relationships between individuals with disabilities and our community. Art, in all of its forms, offers the chance for each of us to connect with others. Whether it's through self-advocacy or community advocacy events, art shows and festivals, or Friends Life Community events, our Friends learn through dynamic curriculum that builds social, independent and communication skills. (c) Health & Wellness: Friends Life Community prioritizes Health & Wellness in our day program by focusing on mind, body, spirit, and relationships. We offer educational classes and inclusive activities for our Friends with disabilities, including daily fitness options that are fun and creative. To promote networking and relationship building, we use our local YMCA facilities and attend their classes weekly, and we regularly participate in Special Olympics events. Friends Life Community: together, we are extraordinary. *Social Club* Friends Life Community Social Club is a group of Friends who meet four times each month for social outings around Nashville. Social Club members learn and apply important life skills—such as relationship building, budgeting, or how to use public transportation and rideshare services (e.g. Lyft or Uber)—in a social setting with peers. Members do not have to attend our day program to participate. Social Club: experience more. *Career & Life Coaching* Friends Life Community's Career and Life Coaching program empowers individuals to overcome common barriers to independent living through person-centered plans. Each plan is different and created around the specific needs of the individual, with an assigned coach facilitating growth and modeling expected behaviors as the clients work to achieve their goals. Coaching plans can focus on job readiness skills, improving communication, organization, health, and more. CLC at FLC: moving individuals forward.

Community Stories

13 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Board Member

Rating: 5

One need only walk in the door at Friends Life to know you're somewhere special. Though I was a new face on my first visit, the Friends greeted me with hugs and handshakes and smiles that left me glowing. You can tell that amazing things are happening there every day. Friends Life is unique in its approach: keeping young adults with special needs engaged socially and helping them achieve independence through engagement with their community. Nashville is SO fortunate to have such a resource. Every city should be so lucky.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Friends Life is a wonderful program that truly enriches the lives of everyone involved. From a volunteers perspective it is evident the amazing staff has the qualities that make Friends Life thrive. The staff members are patient, caring, compassionate, talented, knowledgeable, and have a genuine care for all the friends. The friends that come to the program are all uniquely wonderful. They are encouraging, kind, helpful to one another, have a good work ethic, and create an environment with a sense of community that is a pleasure to be around. I would highly recommend a volunteer opportunity with Friends Life.

Daniel126

Client Served

Rating: 5

My daughter, who's now 22, was diagnosed with autism at a young age. We were not sure what was going to happen for the next stage of life after school. In comes Friends Life. Friends Life did something to her that my wife and I thought would never happen, she opened up. He new found confidence in herself because of Friends Life, allowed her to find a job (which she has been working for over a year) and she has just recently taking up driving and working on getting her license. None of this would have been possible without the people at Friends Life!

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our daughter has participated in Friends Life since it began. It's difficult to put into words the positive impact it has had on her life and also on ours. She has gained knowledge, social skills, and most of all confidence in herself. She has experienced real friendships and support that lets her know she is loved and valued as a member of her community. Through Friends Life's emphasis on "giving service to community" she has experienced the joys of volunteering and helping others. The staff are truly special people and with their unique gifts they come together to create a community of learning and loving support that changes lives! There are very few quality programs out there for adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities and this one is a gem!

Writer

Client Served

Rating: 5

My son has been attending Friends Life from day 1. There aren't many options for adults with special needs and even options that are the outstanding quality of Friends Life.
It is a place where he has friends, he exercises and learns about healthy eating, he has responsibilities and accountability and he is encouraged to give back to others.
The staff is excellent. They are caring, knowledgeable and interact with the friends with respect
My son has grown so much in his time at Friends Life. Our lives have been impacted greatly by his time there. I look forward to Friends Life being a part of our lives forever.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I have been referring individuals and their families to Friends Life since its inception as an after school program and continue to do so frequently with the current structure of Friends Life as an Adult Community Day Program. From the beginning, I have been impressed with the forward thinking of the staff regarding not only the agency itself but the futures of all the participants. If you visit Friends Life or attend any event they are involved with you can see the enthusiasm and feel the warmth from staff and participants.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

As someone who cares deeply about people with disabilities in Nashville, it has been refreshing to experience the gentle presence of Friends Life. Over the past year, I've had the pleasure of attending some of their community events and getting to know some of the staff and some of the clients ("friends"). They have created a truly special, inclusive, and welcoming community. Keep up the good work!

Board Member

Rating: 5

The average American does not have daily interactions with persons who have disabilities. It is so refreshing to visit Friends Life and see persons with disabilities thrive doing daily tasks. Friends Life believes every person has a place in this world. We need Friends Life so teenagers and adults with intellectual disabilities can continue to develop socially, grow personally, and enjoy our wonderful community here in Nashville.

Beth185

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Friends Life is a wonderful program that supports individuals meet their highest potential. It provides opportunities for their participants to learn, experience, and grow. When visiting Friends Life it is obvious that the culture is one of community and mutual respect between staff and participants.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Friends Life Community is such a unique non-profit. I had the privilege of volunteering there with some small groups for a couple of weeks in a row. I was so impressed by the knowledgeable staff and the extremely welcoming friends. We made many new friends and had such an amazing time getting to know them as well as the staff! The operation as a whole is run very well and is making a huge difference in the community. You don't have to be there long to notice what great things take place at Friends Life!

Client Served

Rating: 5

Friends Life filled an important need for our son with disabilities. Post high school, he needed a place that was safe and understanding of his abilities. A place that would encourage his continued learning with highly qualified staff to guide him. A place that nurtured and cared for him as well as nudged him to be more independent. When we found Friends Life, we felt we found the perfect solution to all his needs. Even though our expectations were high, in the 4 years he has been a part of Friends Life, the Friends Life Community has far surpassed our expectations. Matthew is accepted. Matthew is understood. Matthew is cared for and loved; best of all - he has friends!

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Friends Life is an incredible non-profit that offers a safe and fun environment for individuals with intellectual disabilities to learn, grow, express themselves and make friends! I had the wonderful opportunity of working for this organization and getting to know many of the Friends and staff very well. I taught Creative Writing and Cooking class-which are only a few of the awesome classes Friends Life offers. It is truly a place of fun and learning-and most importantly, a place where everyone is free to be themselves and feel accepted and loved. Friends Life gave me my Nashville family-and will always hold a special place in my heart. I can not say enough about this wonderful place!

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our daughter, Katie, has been attending the day program at FL since it began. She loves going everyday and is challenged by the programs they have developed. FL is much more than a "baby sitting" program like many programs for people with disabilities. I would say it is more like continuing adult education. FL has classes for everything from creative writing, art, cultural studies to nutrition. They emphasize health and fitness and have done a great job in encouraging Katie to stay on top of her fitness. But the most important thing for Katie at FL are the people. Many of the Friends have been there since it began and these kids have developed into lifelong friendships, something that rarely happens for people with disabilities. We love FL and know Katie's life would never be as rich and meaningful without it!