Greenhouse gives people with disabilities job training

May 29, 2008 10:48:41 AM PDT
Gardening is serious business, especially this time of the year.

There is only one greenhouse in the country that was created to give people with disabilities job training. Hoping to start a new employment tread for people with disabilities, We Grow Dreams is a successful story.

Located in West Chicago, We Grow Dreams Greenhouse and Garden Center has a wide variety of beautiful flowers, plants and annuals available for retail sale and wholesale distribution. It is also a not-for-profit organization that provides training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Donna Jarmusz is the president.

"Business is wonderful," said Jarmusz. "We've been able to really affect a lot of lives. A lot of people with disabilities have come through our program. Some have moved on to other employment in the community."

Since We Grow Dreams opened three years ago, they have received national attention.

"We had an article, a short article in the Wall Street Journal and after that we had people calling us from all over the country asking us how we started this program, how successful it was. Our long-term goal would be to develop We Grow Dreams operations across the country. We are still fine-tuning this one," Jarmusz said.

Team members with disabilities work a minimum of 10 hours per month with a job coach. They get paid minimum wage.

"They perform all types of tasks. They learn variety of greenhouse responsibilities," said Jarmusz.

Laurie Staples is the team program manager.

"I've seen remarkable changes in some of our team members," said Staples. "We had one young man with autism who initially showed more of the characteristics of autism, and gradually as he became more accustomed to the environment here and to the job training I just saw a transformation and much more social skills and much more independence in his working."

The best part of We Grow Dreams is that they are still growing.

"Right now we have about 40 team members and I would like to see us grow to at least 75 team members. We have the capacity to bring on more people because the more members that we can add to our program the more lives we're affecting," Staples said.

General manager Christopher Goulet agrees.

"We have a really neat staff here and all our teams members are very nice," said Goulet.

We Grow Dreams is giving people with disabilities an opportunity to make their dreams come true.

For more information about We Grow Dreams go to their website at www.wegrowdreams.org.

We Grow Dreams
1055 West Washington Street
West Chicago, IL 60185
(630) 293-0100

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