Community Circles: Part Two

“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

– Solomon

What’s the secret to living a long and healthy life? There’s a good chance it’s your social life. In a recent TED talk, Susan Pinker points out research held on tens of thousands of middle-aged people’s lifestyles to address the question, “What reduces your chances of dying the most?” This research was directed by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, professor of psychology at Brigham Young University. 

The summary of the data was a top 10 list which included things like clean air, exercise, quit smoking, etc. Number 1 on that list was something called “social integration.” This means how much you interact with people throughout your day; from your family, friends to your neighbors or the baristas at your regular coffee shop. A close second on the list is your intimate relationships. 

This is not only crucial for a long and healthy life, but also a more vibrant one. People in communities share common interests, resources, and connections. Networks richly assist its members, such as hearing new music, getting recommendations for an excellent doctor, lending books, and sharing ideas, for example. 

As mentioned in the Circles of Support post, people with disabilities have relatively few relationships in their lives that are not paid to be there. In most cases, Human Service professionals far outweigh their other relationships. Community Circles understand that people with developmental disabilities simply do not have opportunity to connect and expand their network of support. Therefore, Community Circles are not insular. To the contrary, they exist to multiply connections and move outward, motivated by social integration and fostering close relationships. 

For many, life is full of those moments that many of us would say are divinely orchestrated, others might say serendipitous. Being in the right place at the right time, where new friendships or opportunities are offered to us. When people’s knowledge and experiences are diverse, new ideas and possibilities become available to us. Community Circles pave the way for those surprising and fun moments to occur.

The purpose of the below is to dialogue with those who are already involved in a Community. If you have interest in visiting us and learning more click here


As mentioned before, Community Circle participants are made up of Advocates, Partners, family, friends, and likeminded people. 

  1. Recruitment starts with an Advocate/Partner relationship and ensures that a person with developmental disabilities in is at the center of decision-making in the Community. The nature of this relationship; the skills, gifts, and personality will shape the Community as it grows. 
  2. The third person that you need is a Host. This person may be someone the Advocate or Partner already knows and trusts. A Host is someone: 
  • with the gift of hospitality
  • will open their home and inspire others to do the same 
  • a person who has an outstanding reputation and is influential in their community 
  • has a wide network of likeminded family or friends

You can then begin hosting simple gatherings such as potluck and game nights in order to start building relationships. Guests are invited by the Partner, Advocate, and Host in efforts of growing the number of participants in the Community Circle. Circles can grow up to 15 people or more. 

In no particular order, these participants might include some or all of the following: 

  1. The Partner’s Intimate Relationships 
  2. The Advocate and Host’s most trusted relationships that are interested in the inclusion of people with disabilities 
  3. Do for One staff assists in the recruitment of people with developmental disabilities in need of companionship or advocacy
  4. Support staff to Partners, this will at times be necessary for some with more significant support needs
  5. At times it might be necessary to reach outside your normal circles in efforts of building momentum and adding to greater diversity in your Circle. Places like your home church, mercy and justice minded organizations that help recruit volunteers, are examples that can help with this

Vetting and Requirements

  • Our Info Sessions is the starting point and we ask all participants to attend. 
  • We ask all serious Community Circle participants to fill out a “Community Friend Profile” and background check. This helps us discern everyone’s involvement. 
  • In addition to potluck and game nights, gatherings to reflect, pray, and friendly visits to many of their friends with disabilities can take place for enriching their collective understanding of Do for One’s mission. 
  • In the next post, I will go into detail on how to discover your Communities’ assets and unique identity. 

Community Circles: Part One

"The reason there will be no change is because the people who stand to lose from change have all the power. And the people who stand to gain from change have none of the power." - Machiavelli

Many of you are familiar with our community gatherings. Our hope at these gatherings is to heal divisions between class and factions of our city and to create opportunity for people of diverse identities to meet, relate, and experience moments of life together that will be remembered. 

In a series of posts, I'd like to start introducing a concept that I think will help us realize the potential within our existing community gatherings and to deepen our existing Advocate/Partner relationships. 

In the above quote, Machiavelli helps us to see why people and families affected disability feel isolated and stuck. People with disabilities usually only have a few people in their lives they can call on when they need help. In most cases, these people are professionals that are paid to be there. There are many reasons for this, including the person’s lack of opportunity for work, access to social or religious groups, or connections with people who share their interests. See our post on Circles of Support. 

There is a chasm between two basic groups of people: those who are walking on "thick ice" and those who are walking on "thin ice." Initiating or joining a Community Circle is a great first step for you to make social change by being social. 


What Are Community Circles? 

Community Circles are self-designed collectives made up of Do For One participants. They are organized – based on location, or similar interests, for example – by Advocates, Partners, family, friends, and likeminded people. They focus their time, talents, and resources on connecting vulnerable persons with people who are ready, willing, and able to befriend and support them.

Community Circles are started by thoughtfully recruiting and assembling a balanced guest list of people with and without disabilities, this provides a safe, comfortable environment for networks to form and strengthen. Movie and game nights, karaoke nights, picnics, planning meetings, and special occasions such as birthday or graduation parties are some of their events. Community Circles determine the content, direction, and social character of their efforts, which is essential for their sustainability and efficacy. Community Circles exist within neighborhoods and are encouraged to in influence their community by inclusion. 

Interested in visiting one? CLICK HERE to see where gatherings are held near you. 

Stayed tuned for part two! We'll get into more specifics.

- Andrew

"Am I really lovable like that?"

Based on the Citizen Advocacy model, Do For One’s mission is to develop and support freely given relationships for people with disabilities. By selectively matching one person with disabilities in need of companionship or advocacy with another person who enjoys the more ordinary privileges in life, we promote healthier communities and richer lives. As coordinator, I have been reflecting on the fears and expectations that many people with disabilities are experiencing when entering into relationships. While I’ve been somewhat prepared for the fears that advocates might have in responding to someone in need, what I was less prepared for is the fear that people with disabilities have with this idea of relating to someone who is both not a paid staff worker and non-disabled. 

Recently, I was at a support group which consisted of about 35 adults with intellectual disabilities. In clarifying the type of service Do For One offers, one staff member asked the group, “How many of you have ever had an unpaid / non-disabled friend?” Once it was clarified that she was not asking about friendly paid staff or others who have a disability receiving the same services: not a single person raised their hand. 

This experience and other recent individual conversations reminds me, while those who are more privileged are fearful of the unknown when entering the relationship, there are many people with disabilities who are also understandably fearful of being in relationship with a non-staff / non-disabled person. There seems to be an underlying question coming from many wounded people: “Am I really lovable like that?”

However, this realization must not discourage us! After all, the most precious gifts in life are often in the most difficult things. So, what are some key concepts and beliefs that help guide us through the social dynamics and to discover the gifts found in relationships between people with and without disabilities? 

First, it’s important to realize that people with disabilities are all individuals with totally different circumstances and should be defined more by who they are and their individual story than by the fact that they have a disability. People’s needs and interests will differ widely and therefore we must be prepared to respond accordingly; this is why relationship is at the core of how we respond to people’s need for support. Theology Professor and Disability Advocate, Nancy Eiesland helped me to understand that people with disabilities don’t identify with each other because of their similarities in bodily or mental function, but they identify with each other because of the way that society at large treats them, namely with stigmatizing values and exclusion. Therefore, people need to be known and treated as individuals in order to help discover and foster their own God-given purpose. It’s also important to recognize that people with disabilities still face oppressive circumstances and need people who are in good standing within a community (and not just in human services) to be great allies, helping to reverse stigma and the often downward spiral of further wounding experiences and bring their personal gifts to the community which then lifts the social status of the individual.

Secondly, many wounded people, who have developed an expectation of failure toward relationships, will not know how to grow a relationship, keep that relationship going and maintain a hopeful outlook of the continued growth of that relationship as the relationship ebbs and flows. At times, it may not be fully reciprocal and a wounded person will need someone to be understanding and patient through the many discouraging thoughts of feeling unlovable. People who have been severely wounded will need support for the rest of their life, and so there is no “one-time fix-all” solution. This does not mean that we are to fulfill all the obligations of support. However, it is important to recognize that it is not about finding one big answer that solves it all, but more about the many little, but persistent responses to needs that will reverse a person’s expectations of rejection and help them find the road to healing.

Lastly, it is of crucial importance to believe that such relationships are possible! After all, the dreams and desires of people with and without disabilities are basically the same. We all have basic desires in our lives for love, security, and a place to belong. Most of these needs can only be met through freely given and personal relationships. Relationships between people with and without disabilities are even more likely to happen when people are invited into them by others who’ve done it themselves and when people are asked to do something for another person that they already feel equipped for and are passionate about. 

These relationships can come at a cost, but a highly worthy one. We are standing with people who are always at risk of being marginalized, so we ourselves, to some degree, become marginalized too. Relationships across these barriers are transformative, being stretched beyond what we never thought would be possible, developing courage, patience, humor, and forgiveness in ways that would have never otherwise been possible. It is here we find that we too are needy people asking the same question about ourselves: “Am I really lovable like that?” It is here we find Life’s most profound Passions and Joy. It is here we find what Christian tradition has called the “Hidden Christ.” 

Inspired by Jesus’ words, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me,” Do For One invites us to treasure an opportunity to align ourselves with those who are considered least important in our society, not only because they’ve become our friend, but because we realize that such an opportunity is sacred.                                     

Andrew Oliver

"Only PEOPLE can do that."

Do For One is based upon the reality that unless people with disabilities have freely given and supportive relationships, many basic needs will remain unmet. We provide an authentic and personal way to respond to the belief that everyone is of unique and sacred value.

“It is clearly impossible for a system to address the most personal needs of love, caring, responding to human needs and desires. Only PEOPLE can do that.” - AJ Hildebrand

Our invitation is to journey with us through the values and spirit of Do For One. Some may have an interest in working with people with disabilities and resonate with the inherent dignity and hope there is in mutually beneficial relationships between people with and without disabilities. Some may be longing to be connected to meaningful community and see its importance for all New Yorkers. Others may be on a spiritual search for something of greater meaning and sense the prophetic message that weakness and vulnerability calls us to be united with our creator, who through our brokenness makes us whole. 


At our info sessions we educate people on what the day to day life is like for many people with intellectual disabilities. We discuss the many unwarranted fears and assumptions that people have about disability and how that often leads to segregation and loss of control for many adults with disabilities. It is through this deep reflection of the situations of devalued people that we develop an understanding of Do For One’s values and relationship centric model. 

Quotes from info session participants: 

"I was struck by the reality that some of our neighbors never get the opportunity to explore their city on their own terms. The things I take for granted like strolling through a book store for hours, are things that some people are not permitted to do. But why? The info session answered that for me. I learned about the history of institutionalization of disabled persons in the city, the day-to-day experiences of people with disabilities and the inspiring story behind the inspiration for Do For One. I walked out knowing that I had to do something." 

- Kimberly


    "My vision had shifted from being a person who looks out and sees only the brokenness of the lives orbiting mine, to a person who looks out and sees the fingerprint of God's hand on every life - everyone, every life royalty." 

- Jermaine


If you’re interested in becoming an advocate, here is how we normally discern involvement. Please note, it takes time and coordination to make the right match and could take up to three months. We desire for you to be a part of one of the emerging communities that Do For One has fostered in Roosevelt Island, Upper West Side or Astoria, Queens. 

The steps to get involved are as follows: 

  1. Attend an info session click here for the calendar 
  2. Attend at least 3 community gatherings click here for the calendar 
  3. Fill our your advocate profile click here for advocate profile 

*note: there are other ways to be involved which you can indicate on the advocate profile

   4. Run a seamless online background check 

   5. Meet potential partners with disabilities to be matched with, we strive to             make this intentional yet comfortable for both parties until everyone involved feels really great about the match

   6. We then provide support to you through community and additional    trainings.