Tommy Nobis, the former NFL star player for the Falcons, visited the Buckhead 50 Club’s Aug. 9 meeting in support of the vocational-training nonprofit that bears his name.

Dave Ward, president and CEO of Marietta-based Nobis Works, was the club’s featured speaker at the American Legion Post in Chastain Park. He explained the nonprofit’s mission of providing jobs and work training for people with barriers to employment, including physical or mental disabilities, criminal records and such challenging life situations as single parenthood. The nonprofit particularly serves people with disabilities seeking work and among its prominent local partners is the Kroger grocery store chain.

(from left) Dave Ward, president and CEO of Nobis Works; board member Lynn Nobis; and board member and former Falcons great Tommy Nobis pose after the Buckhead 50 Club meeting at Chastain Park Aug. 9. (Photo John Ruch)

“Kroger has been a fantastic partner of ours,” Ward said.

Ward also praised Tommy and his wife, Lynn Nobis, who also attended the Buckhead 50 meeting, for their work supporting the nonprofit. Tommy Nobis helped to found the organization 40 years ago, lending it his name and significant donations. Tommy and Lynn, who live in Sandy Springs, are Nobis Works board members.

“Tommy has been there from the beginning and we’re so thankful for his commitment and his tenacity,” said Ward.

Ward said that in its 40 years, Nobis Works has found work for more than 25,000 people who have disabilities. The nonprofit estimates those 25,000 people earned a collective $500 million and freed up more than $200 million in public benefits they otherwise would have relied on without access to the workforce. He also noted that when the organization was founded, it was common for people with disabilities to remain at home in the care of relatives and cut off from many opportunities for independence and social living.

Ward, who has a long career in public service nonprofits, has led Nobis Works for 10 months. His most recent previous position was executive vice president of mental health and family services the Florida-based veteran-supporting nonprofit the Wounded Warrior Project, which ran into scandal over lavish spending on top executives’ salaries and publicity shortly after he left. Ward said that nonprofit’s leadership could have prioritized some of that spending differently, but that it still served veterans well and he believes it received a “raw deal” in the press.

Tommy Nobis was a star linebacker for the University of Texas at Austin Longhorns and became the first player drafted to the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons in 1966, the team’s first year of existence. After an illustrious career, including many Pro Bowl appearances, he worked for the Falcons management for many years.

The Buckhead 50 is an invitation-only civic and social club with a men-only membership and is seeking new members. For more information, contact club president Michael Moore at 404-667-4762.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.