It took a team effort to get Best Buddies its new office at Tysons Corner Center.
The nonprofit’s Virginia and D.C. affiliate moved into a first-floor suite near the mall’s former Lord and Taylor in March, but the office didn’t get an official grand opening until July 13, according to Molly Whalen, the affiliate’s state director.
While the site is mostly for staff, the office is also intended to serve as a gathering space where Best Buddies can host events, trainings, and meet-ups for participants in its programs to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
In addition to its signature friendship program, which pairs people with and without disabilities to encourage socializing, Best Buddies provides job assistance, leadership development, and two live-in residences in D.C. and Florida.
“We try to raise awareness of inclusion and friendship and employment and leadership advocacy for people with IDD,” Whalen said. “So, just being in the mall and having that Best Buddies sign is a big deal, because people will want to learn more.”
Best Buddies Virginia and D.C. decided a change was needed from the more traditional office it had in Seven Corners after employees pivoted to working from home in March 2020 in response to COVID-19.
According to Whalen, the rent proved too much for a space the organization wasn’t using, and it was set to increase “considerably” each year.
“By end of last year, like October, we were kind of desperate to get out of the contract, because it was just so much money that, as a nonprofit, we were just kind of burning,” she said.
In stepped NBC4’s “The Scene” reporter Tommy McFly, who chairs Virginia and D.C. affiliate’s advisory board and helped secure a discounted lease for a vacant retail storefront for Best Buddies.
The nonprofit was also the recipient of furniture donations from National Association of Manufacturers, which happened to be relocating, and Heather Cooper — a Best Buddies volunteer who happens to be a former White House floral and interior designer — decorated the windows and wall with a mural.
Though the office isn’t open to the public, except for scheduled events, Best Buddies plans to take advantage of the location’s visibility by putting a video and QR codes in the front windows that will enable passersby to get more information about its mission and programs, according to Whalen.
“The new location will provide Best Buddies the opportunity to grow their work and increase its exposure to new audiences while being metro accessible to those they serve,” Tysons Corner Center said in a press release.
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