“There is nothing static about FLC – neither the programming, personal growth, or what always seem to be endless possibilities of what a committed and motivated community can accomplish.”
– Joanne Bregman, Parent
There is no greater passion and advocacy than from parents and loved ones of individuals with disabilities. Friends Life Community was founded by four families and a community advocate who were motivated to ensure that there would be a support system and opportunities for their loved ones to thrive after high school. These parents lit the fire that has set high standards and inspired innovation in programming that has created what FLC is today.
The Arc Tennessee is a collective of family members, self-advocates, and community advocates who empower individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families to actively participate in community throughout their lifetime.
There is no greater achievement than to gain the confidence of self-advocates and their family members. That’s why it was such an incredible honor to be nominated for Agency of Distinction by two of our family members and chosen by the selection committee to receive the award at this year’s annual award banquet.
“I (mother of a 28-year-old with autism, intellectual disability, and a host of other diagnoses) describe [the] organization as a place where my son can participate in fun, active, social, and meaningful activities with peers, volunteers, and community members. I describe it as an organization where he is supported to find his own voice through activities fostering self-expression and building self-esteem. I describe it as a place where my son learns practical life skills and participates in pre-employment activities designed to help him become employed. I describe that place as one my son wakes up and can’t wait to attend.”
– Dianne Miller, Parent
The Arc Tennessee hosts this yearly event to recognize and celebrate individuals, businesses, and organizations in our area who “go above and beyond in the disability community”. We are honored to be considered the Agency of Distinction, which highlights FLC as “an organization that provides exemplary supports and demonstrates a commitment to community inclusion for people with disabilities”.
The individual participants and their family members are the reasons for the team’s dedication, hard work, and drive to keep going. It’s in collaboration with incredible agencies like The Arc Tennessee that offer resources, advocacy, and policy that we are all able to grow opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities. Together, we all achieve more than what any individual can achieve alone, that is the definition of a community. Together, we are extraordinary.
Friends Life Community is here to be a lifelong solution for the Friends and their families and caregivers. Our mission is to provide opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities to develop socially, grow personally, and enjoy community as they experience life together.
For more information on our programs, please contact Olivia at firstname.lastname@example.org
Below you can read the full nominations from our FLC parents:
“Anyone and everyone belongs at Friends Life Community (FLC). It is also a place where supports enhance the individual’s experience and opportunities to develop new skills, try new experiences, deepen relationships and continue to move to greater independence. Just as the Friends who participate continue to grow, so too does the infrastructure which supports them. For example, instead of waiting for more employment opportunities to become available, FLC raised the money and created their own employment training opportunities with the “Treat Truck” which recently served over 200 employees at the state Capital. Several individuals with disabilities have been hired as paid employees to work on the Treat Truck as demand has grown for its service at community events.
Through its community employment training, FLC has cemented partnerships with local businesses and has provided the training to those businesses preparing them to employ individuals with disabilities. But FLC is so much more than employment training because those who attend are lifelong learners who also have the opportunity to cultivate their other interests through the [social enterprise] and drama program, part of the Advocacy Through the Arts program. FLC participants are also known for contributing a few thousand hours per year volunteering in the community from helping to stock the shelves at The Store, to delivering friendship along with food for Meals on Wheels, to assisting at the Nashville Food Project. Staff are highly valued for their creativity and out-of-the-box brainstorming that continues to…grow the opportunities for FLC participants.
There is nothing static about FLC – neither the programming, personal growth, or what always seem to be endless possibilities of what a committed and motivated community can accomplish. Staff members have confessed to me that FLC is the best place to work and as a parent of a young woman who has benefited from that outlook, I would say that FLC is the best place to belong!”
“An answer to prayers? A dream come true? How does a mother describe an organization she has been searching for when she finally finds it after decades of looking?
I (mother of a 28-year-old with autism, intellectual disability, and a host of other diagnoses) describe that organization as a place where my son can participate in fun, active, social, and meaningful activities with peers, volunteers, and community members. I describe it as an organization where he is supported to find his own voice through activities fostering self-expression and building self-esteem. I describe it as a place where my son learns practical life skills and participates in pre-employment activities designed to help him become employed. I describe that place as one my son wakes up and can’t wait to attend. I describe that place as one I had to move 150 miles across the state for, but one that would be worth moving across the country if I had to. I describe that place as Friends Life Community at 4414 Granny White Pike in Nashville Tennessee.
Yes, I had to relocate 150 miles (which is no small feat for a single mom at the age of 65, with long roots in my former community), but Friends Life Community is an extraordinary organization and truly deserving of the agency of distinction award.
Before the pandemic, my son had a part-time job and attended a day program in Southeast Tennessee. He stayed busy, but he wanted something more than his mostly-janitorial job and, as an aging parent, I wanted him to learn to advocate for himself so he can do that when I am no longer able to do it for him. I also wanted him to have fun and meaning in his life, something that just wasn’t part of the programming we had available to us. With the life-changing impetus of the pandemic, I thought I would “just look” (virtually) at programs in California, the Pacific Northwest, and other regions of the country where I thought people with intellectual disabilities might be living their best lives. I found some interesting organizations and destinations, but nothing affordable on a retiree’s pension. In April 2021, when most activities were still shut down, my son was spending 12+ hours each day in front of the computer. I noticed one day that he had found some free online classes that fascinated him. The classes kept his attention like nothing else we had found, so I started to investigate and found a program unrivaled by the programs I saw in other parts of the country. What I found was Friends Life Community (FLC).
At 150 miles away, it wasn’t quite in my own backyard, but once I saw what an extraordinary organization Friends Life is, the decision to uproot our lives and move to Nashville was almost easy. Before I committed to moving, I learned that 47% of the “Friends” are employed in the community, and that number is expected to increase. New companies routinely approach Friends Life and request inclusive employment training, so they can hire new employees with disabilities. FLC has novel ways of preparing participants for the workforce. One is the Treat Truck, a mobile food truck that worked 50+ events last year while engaging with 3000+ community members and demonstrating the workforce abilities of FLC participants. This is in addition to tried-and-true support, such as placing participants in more than a dozen local not-for-profit organizations and helping them log more than 2000 service – learning hours. The pre-employment supports are important, but it is the way Friends learn about self-expression and self-advocacy and the way they connect to the community that is unique and absolutely amazing.
Who else in Tennessee (or other states, for that matter) is supporting adults with intellectual disabilities in songwriting? In script writing and video production? In performing LIVE on stage in collaboration with such organizations as the Tennessee Performing Arts Center? Who else is collaborating with the Nashville film festival and the North American Drama Therapy Association? Who else is selling more than $6000/year of original artwork by people with IDD? Who else is supporting people with IDD in acting and dance ensembles at 20+ different locations to more than 5000 community members each year? Who else is supporting adults with IDD to live whole, enriching lives and also sharing their curriculum with other agencies who serve adults with developmental disabilities? Who else provided free online classes to anyone in the country during the pandemic? I know of only one organization that does all these things every day of the week (and provides financial aid to those students who need it). I know of only one organization my son can’t wait to attend each day. I know of only one organization that I knew I had to move 150 miles for. So whether you call FLC an answer to prayers or you call it a dream come true, I hope you also call Friends Life Community an Agency of Distinction.”