Earlier this year, we had the honor of gathering with the original founders of Friends Life Community (FLC) around a familiar dinner table. As we began, Jack Herndon, co-founder and Board Chair at the time, shared a powerful sentiment that has been the driving force behind FLC from the very beginning – the unwavering commitment to ensuring that the Friends experience life to its fullest, in the embrace of a genuine community.
The vision was clear: Friends Life Community would become the embodiment of a “real community” for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, a place that would be synonymous with genuine community in the hearts of all Nashvillians.
The Essence of a “Real Community”
But what does it truly mean to be a “real community” for adults with disabilities? The answer is simple yet profound: it’s about being known, having a support system, forming meaningful friendships, and experiencing the gift of reciprocity.
In a “real community,” you are not just a face in the crowd; you are known. People know your name, your likes, what upsets you, and how to bring a smile to your face. It’s about being invited to sit with friends, celebrating birthdays together, and running into familiar faces at the grocery store who greet you by name. When you are known, you feel confident, your voice matters, and you’re enveloped in a sense of safety, love, and acceptance for who you are.
“As a parent, it’s incredible to know that there are people here who know Katie as well as or better than we do.” — Karl Hamilton, co-founder.
Having a Support System:
Real community means having a dependable support system in both good times and challenging moments. It’s about supporting each other to surpass expectations, being held accountable for giving your best, and knowing you’re not alone in problem-solving. For both our Friends and their family members, it’s about providing a safety net that allows everyone to step outside their comfort zones and achieve greater independence.
In a “real community,” friendships are not transactional; they are genuine. Through FLC, the Friends develop authentic bonds with peers. They work alongside community members, engage in thousands of hours of volunteer work, contribute to the local workforce, showcase their art, perform in the community, and bring joy to others through Treat Truck events. These experiences allow them to practice essential social skills, build confidence, advocate for themselves, and improve their communication – all of which lead to stronger relationships within the community.
The Gift of Reciprocity:
Real community is a gift of reciprocity. It’s about mutual benefit for everyone involved, regardless of ability. Every individual, with or without a disability, contributes their diverse abilities, perspectives, talents, and skills to create a vibrant, inclusive community. Here, everyone participates in giving and receiving, and it’s this balance that makes the community whole.
Experiencing Life to the Fullest:
It’s our belief that when one experiences “real community” with those around them, they also experience life to the fullest.
“It has far exceeded anything we could have ever dreamed,” co-founder Jennie Scott beautifully reflects.
Thank You to Our Real Community!
As we celebrate 15 incredible years of “real community” at Friends Life Community, we want to extend our heartfelt gratitude to each and every member of this remarkable community. Your commitment to creating a space where our Friends can experience the fullness, happiness, and dignity of reciprocity is truly immeasurable.
Thank you for being a part of our journey, and here’s to many more years of friendship, belonging, and purpose! 🥂❤️ #RealCommunity #InclusionMatters #15YearsStrong