The Lilly/Noble Partnership

In honor of October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), we’d like to recognize one of our longest-standing partners in diversifying the workforce: Eli Lilly & Co.

Assisting Lilly's labs in keeping clean beakers and cylinders is one of many jobs individuals have held at Lilly through Noble's employment servicesSince the late 1980s—not long after Noble founded Indiana’s first Supported Employment service in 1986—Lilly has been tapping into the many talents and contributions of people with disabilities like Down syndrome and autism. In a very real way, Lilly’s culture 30+ years ago embodied the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives that characterize most workplace environments today.

Historical Context for an Unthinkable Idea

First, we need a bit of historical context. Noble was founded in 1953 as a school for children with disabilities. Such a school was an unthinkable idea for the time: most doctors believed that having a disability precluded learning, growth & even having a life worth living.

However, a few Indianapolis families who rejected that advice came together to found Noble School, and their legacy has forged a path of new opportunities that Noble has followed ever since. You can see a bit more with our 70th Celebration Video.

As our community evolved, so did the concept of disabilities. Kids and then preschoolers began filling public school classrooms & our community’s workforce began capitalizing on the contributions that adults with disabilities could offer. Lilly was one of the first companies to incorporate the talents of this diverse labor pool by hiring individuals with disabilities through Noble.

Noble’s Impact on Lilly’s Workforce

Assisting Lilly with its recycling initiative has been a cornerstone of our work partnershipBy 2013, this partnership with Noble shifted to a focus on recycling—yet another way Lilly has demonstrated its sense of corporate responsibility. Managed by a Noble Team Leader, a crew of 6-8 workers would collect boxes from five buildings around the Lilly campus each day, remove any Styrofoam and plastic, and then compact the cardboard for recycling.

At a rate of 700 pounds a day, five days a week, the crew was responsible for helping recycle over 100,000 pounds a year. That translates to saving an estimated 17 trees a day, not to mention keeping unnecessary items out of landfills.

While the Lilly/Noble recycling initiative continues today, this business model is being positioned to grow. Noble and Lilly subcontractor CBRE are developing a new business plan that would grow both the number of individuals working through Noble Employment and Workforce Services (N.E.W.S.) at Lilly & the functions they fulfill.

Taking Diversity, Equity & Inclusion a Step Further

As part of its DEI initiatives, Lilly staff members are working with Noble on ways to encourage their colleagues to include people of all abilities in every aspect of life. Lilly’s initiative also includes educating staff on how their families can access the many services, therapies & supports Noble provides to both children and adults.

Because reliable transportation is often a formidable barrier to people with disabilities being able to maintain employment, the Lilly/Noble team is exploring a potential ride-share program to assist their colleagues with disabilities in getting to and from work.

The best is yet to come as Noble enters its next season of service to the communityBeyond work, Lilly demonstrated its commitment to service by encouraging its staff to give back. Many Lilly new hires spend part of orientation volunteering at Noble & their annual Day of Service always includes dozens of staff volunteering a morning or afternoon with us. This focus on service extends to the top, with corporate executives like Board Members Arvie Anderson and Allison Osler serving on Noble’s Board of Directors.

Encourage Others to Join the Noble Team

Like other service organizations, Noble relies on the strength of our bench. Approximately 77% of our staff work in frontline, direct service positions. These Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) support individuals in living as independently as possible, building skills & participating in our community.

How can you help? Encourage people you know—college students, recent retirees, people wanting to pick up some hours & make an impact—to join the Noble team. The flexible nature of these positions makes them ideally suited to people of all ages, skills & backgrounds. If you know any ideal candidates for the Noble team, encourage them to apply today.

Dream it. Live it.

At Noble, Dream it. Live it. is more than a tagline. It is the focus of the services we offer & the supports we provide. Because we envision a world in which children & adults of all abilities live their dreams in a community that embraces their contributions, we offer life-enhancing services like:

Interested in learning more? Visit us at or let us know how you’d like to get involved!