CHI Friendship is a nationwide leader in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities, and in 2020, Chamber members voted them the People’s Choice award winner.
CHI Friendship has been providing individualized supports to people with disabilities since opening in 1974. They encourage people to live life just like everyone else, including living, working and connecting with their community. This work allows for people to have more control and choice in their lives. In Fargo, Friendship has four group homes and several apartment settings where people may be supported 24/7. They also provide vocational services, assisting people to work and volunteer.
The mission at CHI Friendship calls for employees to “make the healing presence of God known in our world…” Healing comes in a variety of sizes and actions, and can be individualized or company-wide. Healing or a sense of well-being occurs when a person supported finds the job they’ve been looking for. Or when someone reunites with a family member. Healing occurs when we sit down to ask someone how their day is going. It can occur when a person supported is fully included into a group, congregation or a community. Living out their mission is a continuous journey for CHI Friendship. They view it as a great honor and privilege and hope it truly makes a difference in the lives of the people they support and our communities.
In 2020, Friendship witnessed many accomplishments across the organization. The year was filled with rights being reinstated for many people, dreams coming true, organizational changes, remaining active and connected during COVID-19, and so much more. Their dedicated staff have done an incredible job at doing what needed to be done while strengthening their programs and services.
Community employment is a focus at Friendship as they believe all people they support can work and should have the same opportunities for employment. Educating business owners on the benefits of employing people with disabilities has created several long-standing jobs with area businesses. “Partnerships and education have led to meeting the needs of both parties by filling vacant positions with an untapped workforce,” said Dori Leslie, president of CHI Friendship.
Friendship also promotes inclusion within our community. They are often educating others in the area of developmental disabilities. Friendship has partnered with local colleges, schools and other community organizations to educate others about the field of developmental disabilities. The organization has a strong awareness of community needs. They teach staff and people supported to contribute to their community, which paves the way for important relationships. Some of their community involvement includes United Way Day of Caring, Boy Scouts, holiday parades, backpack drives, volunteering at Bluestem concerts, donation drives, and hosting blood drives.
In turn, Friendship relies on donations to continue carrying out their work. Giving Hearts Day is one such opportunity. Support on this day helps increase the quality of life for people with disabilities and helps people achieve their goals and dreams. Thanks to donors, they can make sure everyone remains safe during the COVID-19 pandemic by purchasing items such as masks, face shields, gowns, goggles, disinfectant spray, hand sanitizer, soap, thermometers, gloves, and more. Donations also go toward maintaining adaptive equipment like hearing aids and wheelchairs, purchasing clothing, emergency expenses and more.
Reflecting on the last year, Leslie said: “Despite all the challenges throughout the year, Friendship has never been stronger – thanks to our staff, parents, guardians, board members, team members, community members, business partners, donors and friends. I have never doubted that we would persevere and prosper the way we did, thanks to all of you! The year 2020 has been a test for us all and Friendship is an organization that is built on a bedrock of faith, which remains a guiding light for us all.”
Looking forward, Friendship will continue to pioneer creative, individualized services for each person they support. They will identify ways to continue to positively impact each person they support with the highest quality, and continue to do the good work that began so many years ago.