Charles A. Archer has made a career out of helping others. He is the CEO/co-founder of The THRIVE Network, a 501(c)(3) based in Brooklyn, which helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families in New York City and New Jersey.
A lawyer, author, speaker, entrepreneur, Archer has been involved in community services for more than two decades. In the process, he has worked in partnership alongside such community advocates and politicians as Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Public Advocate For The City Of New York Letitia James, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. Archer has served as a Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney and the Associate Executive Director to the InterAgency Council of Mental Retardation & Developmental Disability Agencies. He also serves as the Board of Director for Black Agency Executives.
Archer started Thrive to help even more people. “After working in the human services field with the mentally-challenged and developmentally- disabled, a friend and I asked ourselves, what we can do to make a difference in the lives of others, especially within our own community in Brooklyn, New York. Specifically, how could we service the underserved community that meets the needs of people with developmental disabilities? And more importantly, how can we service the needs of individuals and families with disabled persons of color?”
He and his partner launching an organization such as Thrive was more than needed in the community. “Unfortunately, there is a problem in the New York State Legislature. Despite elected officials’ civic duty, role and responsibility to the entire citizenry of New York, the laws, policies and regulations are not reflective of the needs of all vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. This problem has negatively impacted the delivery of services, support and programs for individuals living with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families,” he points out.
He adds, “A possible cause or obstacle to this problem is the perception of the insignificance, value and relevancy of the disabled community to society. Oftentimes, their needs are overlooked by many. In order to address inclusive disability policy head on, research is necessary to study by whom, why and which legislation have been proposed, passed and enacted in the State of New York. And above all, how we can make these individuals and families become included members of the community?”
Thrive offers various services. “From early education, supporting individuals with physical and developmental disabilities, social habilitation, respite care, family reimbursement, residential housing and other support programs, The THRIVE Network is committed in helping those individuals get back on their feet. Therefore, providing the proper tools and resources needed to enable individuals to become more independent, productive and included members of our community,” says Archer.
According to Archer there are several obstacles for people with physical and developmental disabilities. He cites, “Lack of available resources addressed to specific individual needs (Programs and Services); an increase in housing, human and health service-related expenses and relative budget; meandering politicians and elected officials with a lack of urgency for the underserved; a societal impression of insignificance for those with special needs; insufficient resources for employment and housing for those with disabilities; and on top of this–racial discrimination.”
It hasn’t been easy building Thrive. “Some of the challenges have been gaining access to an inner circle where influential happenings around policy, procedure and regulations intersect,” shares Archer. “Also, not being considered enough to be consulted on the issues, bills and laws that affect people with disabilities in need of social support. It has also been difficult dealing with overextended staff, getting business and civic partnerships as well as celebrity Influencer endorsements to help raise awareness for this vital initiative.”
Archer says he will spend 2016 trying to increase his resources among other things. “Among my goals for 2016 are to increase service areas to other networks–affordable housing, senior services, and other family support services, as well as other related programs. We will work on advocacy and policy development–to continue to evolve the dialogue to advance the developmentally disabled community as well as enact legislations that provide a voice for those who may feel voiceless. And we want to increase organizational awareness, philanthropic and fundraising efforts,” he says.
Despite the challenges and hard work, Archer remains committed. He says, “I’m passionate about my life experiences and those who I’m able to make an impact both directly and indirectly. My greatest accomplishment is that we’ve been able to provide services to people who might not otherwise have been able to receive them on their own; to help bring systemic change in the Brooklyn community and break the barriers of social inequality; an ability to learn from others in addition to gain further exposure from places and things that expand my horizons. And lastly, always believing that we all have a greater role to pay it forward by giving back to others in need (i.e. support programs and services and volunteerism).
He continues, “Although my life is removed of being disenfranchised, I remain focused on the goal at hand, motivated and inspired by others who often feel overlooked, ignored and/or excluded from society.”