WIP Anthony Shriver

Best Buddies: ‘Having the place where you can go every day and feel like you’re part of a team is critical’

A conversation with Anthony Shriver, founder, chairman, and CEO of Best Buddies

It’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month and this October we’ve been highlighting organizations that are on a mission to help people with disabilities join the workforce.

First, let me acknowledge that technical difficulties and a bit of a bug got the best of me this week. The audio quality on my part of the latest podcast is not the best – and I’m a bit under the weather, so no chance to redo the interview – but, we really want to share what Anthony Shriver, founder, chairman, & CEO of Best Buddies, and his organization are doing to help people with developmental and intellectual disabilities find jobs and economic independence.

“An estimated 81% of adults (18+) with developmental disabilities do not have a paid job in the community. The Best Buddies Jobs program has participants employed full time who each have the potential to earn a total income upwards of $1 million over 30 years and contribute $250 thousand in taxes back into the economy,” according to the organization.

Best Buddies has placed workers with hundreds of employers, assisting with the hiring process and providing ongoing support to the employee and employer.

Integrating people with intellectual and developmental disabilities into the workforce is one of the four mission pillars of the nonprofit Anthony Shriver founded in 1989 and he says this one is very close to his heart.

Here is some of what he shares with me in the interview.

Contributing in a Meaningful Way

“We’re trying to tackle all the different challenges that most people have in their life – developing a great social network, building confidence, and having social skills is critical for any job, for any person that has success in their life.

“Having good training is super important to building confidence and opportunities. Having a good place to rest your head every night is critical for everybody. And I think having the place where you can go every day and feel like you’re part of a team – that you’re contributing, that you have purpose, that you know you’re valuable, that you mean something, that you count, that you matter – is critical.

“Those are the main sort of tenets in our life. If you can chip away at all those and cover those bases for another human being, you’re contributing in a meaningful way to their life.”

Why Jobs are a Pillar of the Best Buddies Mission

“I started with the concept of the value of social connection, friendship, mentoring, and that we all need a great support system to be able to achieve our goals. One of my great loves and passions and satisfaction (is what) I get is from being on a team and getting compensated for what I’m doing and being able to take care of myself financially.

“I wanted people with special abilities to have that same opportunity, to feel that same energy that I felt., to feel the same challenge that you get from working in a business and having a job and the opportunity to determine how you’re going to spend your money, and the opportunities that come with independence.

“It’s been something important to me from my childhood – when I had little businesses – and I wanted that to become part of the Best Buddies mission.”

Helping Participants Find Jobs That They are Interested in Doing

“We have people working in law firms – a lot of them doing data entry, a lot of them working in mail rooms. We have people working at technology companies in Silicon Valley. We have some working in schools – teachers assistants, after-school teachers, after-school care activities, and counseling activities. We’ve been really effective in the retail sector…working in the stock room, working on the aisles, working behind the cash registers, working at information desks.

“The jobs are all over the place. It really comes down to having our staff doing a lot of early intervention when they’re in high school and training and intervening when they’re young, trying to get them job ready. And they (our staff) get out and have a really effective way of keeping them in those jobs and having continuity in those jobs and having success. That’s something that’s growing tremendously at Best Buddies.

“Everybody’s more successful when they’re following their passion. The more that the staff understands the individual and what their needs are, and what their interests are, we…figure out ways to work through our network to create opportunities for them to be successful. Because when they’re really doing what they love, they’ll be successful just like the rest of us.”

The Numbers Tell a Story, But This is About People

“The yearly taxes paid from people that are employed through the Best Buddies Jobs program is just under $5 million a year. They’re earning collectively $25 million a year. They’re working 36,000 weekly hours.

“It’s a big number. It’s small relative to the overall population, but, those numbers are real and those dollars are real, and those hours are real and they’re real human beings with real faces and real lives behind those numbers.

“A lot of these people I know myself and have seen them and met their parents, and it’s really, really inspiring. It makes my job incredibly rewarding and filled with enormous amount of purpose.”

Listen or Read, You Decide

Luckily, we’re able to edit the podcast so Shriver does most of the talking. Don’t let a little audio difficulty stop you from listening. Or, if you prefer, you can read the full transcript below.

Episode 248: Anthony Shriver, Founder, Chairman, & CEO, Best Buddies
Host & Executive Producer: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Executive Producers: Joan Lynch and Melissa Panzer
Theme Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4.0
Download the transcript for this podcast here.
You can check out all the other podcasts at this link: Work in Progress podcasts