FRIENDS began in 1998 as a grass-roots parent advocacy network, intended to better the lives of their children with a developmental disability. The early years were focused on providing advocacy, support, information sharing, and referrals. Parents trusted FRIENDS to help them find respite and recreation resources for their children and to navigate Medicaid and school-based assistance programs. As these children entered their teenage years it was clear that there was a need in the Broomfield community for programs to help them transition into adult life.
It was when my son Jesse was in the second grade that I met Gina Coufal and her son Josh. How far toward independence would they be able to go? It is a big and frightening question for all parents who know their children won’t be able to achieve complete independence. Although Jesse and Josh grew and flourished, there was the reality that school was going to end and the opportunities for them in Broomfield would end as well. That’s when Gina got busy and founded FRIENDS of Broomfield.
— Shari Gunter
In response to this need, FRIENDS opened its day program in September of 2005. By simply listening to its members and responding to the needs of the community, FRIENDS continues to grow as an organization and now supports over 75 women and men with a developmental disability in all of its programs combined. Today FRIENDS is the only Broomfield based, state certified, non-profit organization supporting teens and adults with developmental disabilities.
A Place To Belong
Young adults with a developmental disability, and their families, often remark that many people – case managers, social workers, social service providers, and other agency representatives – come and go in their lives at a constant rate. This kind of frequent transitioning promotes an environment of instability and vulnerability. The individuals and families we work with and support tell FRIENDS you are different.
The difference is that FRIENDS is a unique service organization dedicated to not only creating a sense of community, but establishing a place where people feel like they belong and are making progress toward their goals. A place where women and men with a developmental disability can share their stories and dreams, develop their talents and abilities and be supported to live healthy, happy, and meaningful lives.
When our son was young we were suburban shut-ins, feeling life outcasts in society. It wasn’t until a positive high school experience, followed by the last three years of day programming at FRIENDS that we felt our goal of surrounding Robby with community, had been realized.
— Kevin and JuNelle Fitzgerald
Individuals with a developmental disability have historically been excluded from participation in various aspects of mainstream society. Over the years, great strides have been made in improving access to needed services and avenues of participation; however, women and men with a developmental disability continue to be marginalized.
FRIENDS has historically been challenged – amidst zoning restrictions and community biases – to develop our programs, grow as an organization, and find suitable space to manage our operations. Our new building which opened in October of 2013 is a continuation of the dream that was born in 1998. Our new building is truly A Place to Belong and allows us to modernize our services and create an integrated, accessible, and community-based environment that truly supports young adults with a developmental disability as valued members of society. FRIENDS Place will serve as a symbol of stability, hope, and enduring support for years to come.