G.R.O.W.E.R.S., Inc. is a horticultural center in Wallingford, Connecticut, that provides education, employment opportunities, and therapy for adults with physical and developmental disabilities. Their name stands for Growing Real Opportunities With Education Relationships and Stability.They are committed to providing services to individuals with a wide spectrum of needs through social learning experiences using community interaction and horticulture.
Autism Daily Newscast first became aware of the organization in our story on Billy Pagoni whose dream is to become a sous chef.
As their brochure states,
“Clients will be exposed to a diverse curriculum, which will include everything from the growing and care of plants, customer relations, proper etiquette, money management skills and to what they might expect if they were to interview for a job in the market. All this is done as it is coordinated into the business structure of the greenhouse and other horticultural businesses such as landscaping and interior plant maintenance.
“This innovative concept will help to serve the community’s needs for plants maintenance and gardening accessories throughout the Spring, Summer, Harvest and Holiday seasons.”
Scott Hickman, owner and president, explains their program as such,
“Each individual has different goals. There’s basically a support team around each individual . . . some may have dreams of working for a landscaper. Some people have been there since 1975 and would feel uncomfortable if they had to go anywhere else. Some want to increase their work skills. It’s great for self-esteem, and from person to person it differs.”
G.R.O.W.E.R.S., Inc. takes a three-path approach to helping individuals with special-needs find their place in the organization. Path One is for individuals who want to increase their work skills, with the ultimate goal of finding employment and an independent lifestyle. Path Two is similar to Path One, but for those who are in need of extra social-skills training, with more emphasis on teamwork and interpersonal skills. Path Three is for individuals who need extensive support and supervision.
Paths One and Two include internships and job training, including interview skills and building a resume. Paths One and Two run approximately six to eighteen months, and include a working internship where students are paid according to federal standards for compensation of those with physical and developmental disabilities.
Hickman originally ran a similar program through a larger agency during the mid-1990s, but it was cut due to budget constraints. He decided to create G.R.O.W.E.R.S. to help address the lack of educational opportunities for adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. He says,
“With a lot more people coming of age with autism, there’s going to have to be more programs available. I think research need to continue and funding for programs is absolutely key. One of the things I hate to see is an agency that turns into a babysitting service . . .
“What we offer, and what needs to be offered in more programs, are activities that are connected with something worthwhile.”
G.R.O.W.E.R.S., Inc. offers high-quality products that are priced competitively with area nurseries. For more information about G.R.O.W.E.R.S., Inc., see their website at www.growersinc.org.