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Stories of independence, success, and impact

Cultivating Skills in the EmployAbility Garden

September 1919

Audrey Hepburn said, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow,” and EmployAbility’s garden is ripe with learning opportunities and a vision for the future. A living classroom, it hosts two of our Pre-Vocational Training programs – Horticulture and Culinary – which prepare adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) to enter Savannah’s competitive job market.

Alvin, who is part of the Horticulture Training team, is a hard worker and an inspiration to the people around him. During his lifetime, Alvin has grown in many wonderful ways. He has a supportive family, lives independently, and walks to EmployAbility’s Pre-Vocational training each day. Horticulture Training Program participants learn to use equipment for landscaping and garden. “I like working in the garden…getting to be outside, be active, and see the garden grow makes me really happy. And I like helping to show the new people how to do the landscaping right,” he told us.

Alvin is a strong advocate and leader among EmployAbility’s program participants. He sits on the EmployAbility Board of Directors, acting as the client representative, giving feedback and insight to the board and giving a voice to program participants. In recent years, Alvin has also been elected President of the local chapter of People First, a self-advocacy group for people with disabilities.

Working alongside the Horticulture Training Program, EmployAbility’s Culinary Training Program offers a unique farm-to-table learning experience. Program participants learn about planning a garden, tending to crops, the right time to harvest, working safely in a commercial kitchen preparing and plating food, and how to work in a banquet setting.

“Since we have expanded the Culinary Training Program from the kitchen into the garden, program participants are having such fun learning where their food comes from. They’re getting to learn what all the different plants are and experience new foods – it’s really fantastic!” said Josh, Garden Instructor.

The skills learned in the Culinary Training Program aren’t just for work. Program Participants are able to use their skills at home, because they learn to prepare nutritious meals with fresh ingredients – something that is not just healthy, but also helps save money. We asked Stefan, a Culinary program participant, what his favorite food to prepare was, and he told us, “I love making salads with lots of vegetables. Vegetables are healthy and delicious!”

Stefan helped pick a peck of jalapeno peppers

EmployAbility’s Pre-Vocational training programs teach skills that create well-rounded, independent people and employees. By providing the technical skills needed to meet industry demands, while also cultivating soft skills (the intrapersonal skills like communication, teamwork, and time management), program participants entering the workplace are confident, competent, and team players in the workplace, something that today’s employers say is lacking in many of their staff. And with their newfound skills and attitudes, the people in our programs feel they are a valued part of the community and that they can impact their own lives with their abilities.

We invite you to attend our annual fall fundraiser, Flourish, on Thursday, October 24, 2019. Hosted in the EmployAbility garden, it’s a fantastic opportunity to enjoy a sunset stroll through the garden, see our living classroom, enjoy delicious hors d’oeuvres prepared by the Culinary training program, and most importantly, meet the talented program participants from the Culinary, Horticulture, and Hospitality training programs!

For more information on how you can get involved, contact Laura Lane McKinnon at (912) 644-7475 or llmckinnon@employabilityga.org.

About EmployAbility

EmployAbility is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that prepares adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) for competitive employment and community inclusion.

As a non-governmental organization, we rely heavily on support from individual donors, businesses, and foundation grants for funding. No donation is too small to help us sustain our vital programs.

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