NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN)–It’s a busy morning at Edley’s BBQ in Sylvan Park as staff get ready to open for lunch. Staff on Thursdays include members of a Nashville non-profit called Friends Life Community.

Friends Life serves adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The organization was founded by four families and a community advocate who were concerned about their kids in high school after graduating.

“They wanted to make sure they had opportunities to continue to grow, to build job skills and also to make sure that they were never isolated without friendships,” said Waverly Ann Harris, CEO of Friends Life community.

Edley’s staff helped change a flat tire on a Friends Life vehicle and after learning about the organiztion’s mission, the staff wanted to share more about it with the restaurant’s owner.

“In my heart and my bones we have to partner with Friends Life,” said Will Newman, Edley’s owner. “They have responsibilities to get the store set up right, so there’s expectations on how the chairs get set, wiping down all the chairs and the tables and getting our dining room set for the day. They provide so much warmth and joy to our team members but more importantly to our guests.”

For over five years, Edley’s has provided job training to Friends. So far, six Friends are on the payroll with the restaurant.

“When Mary Margaret’s here working our team, I see a lot more smiles and a lot more joy from our team members because she’s running circles around most of our other team members,” Newman.

“I have great co-workers that I love and we’re all a family.  We all pitch in, we all have each other’s backs and it’s been a great job and I love it so much,” said Michael Scott with the Friends Life Community.

In 15 years, Friends Life Community day program has been providing opportunities and changing perceptions, including 10 other non-profits.

“We use the word disabilities because we are wanting to be a part of helping to normalize and also neutralize it as a value. We don’t see anything wrong with having a disability and we can all benefit from talking about it,” said Harris. “We want it to be something that they are okay talking about and advocating around and not seen as a stigma and really helping to break those barriers.”

FLC is also breaking barriers with their advocacy for the arts program. Friends’ talents were recently showcased on the TPAC stage where original works from film, puppetry and plays were debuted.

“Theater is one of the few places where you are celebrated for being different.  You’re not confined to a box.  So, it’s one of the best opportunities to open doors to new things, and again when you create an experience where you’re connecting through emotion, it transcends any barriers you had previously,” said Harris.

Their artwork is also featured in different places around the city, available to purchase and help Friends members make an income through their creative expression. Friends are also entrepreneurs, running a treat truck that can be hired out for birthday parties, church or corporate events.

“They’re creating smiles, they’re giving out so much positivity that it’s making businesses and nonprofits and neighborhoods want them to come back and again and again as it’s created such a great experience,” said Harris.

Randall not only volunteers with Meals on Wheels, but is also a popular artist and often times her work sells out fast.

“Friends Life has changed Randall. She’s become more independent; she’s blossomed since she’s come here,” Trey Webber, a Friends parent. “Friends Life is a hero to Randall and our family because it has allowed her to have a place to go and to feel a part of and to grow in the arts and drama and certain job trainings where otherwise she wouldn’t have.

“Friends Life Community is a hero because they bring dignity to our friends and our friends bring so much joy to our neighborhood,” said Newman.

News 2 honors the organization for their hard work and community impact in our series News 2 Gives Back Hometown Hero for November. News 2 Gives Back is presented by Trevecca Nazarene University, which has provided opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities to grow personally, develop socially and be active members of their community.

If you’d like to partner with Friends Life Community, or hire out their treat truck or volunteer, visit