Feature: doing well by doing good.

AuthorCummings, Mary

Hope grows at two local greenhouses

Greenhouses are upbeat places. They seem to be flooded with sunshine even on days when the sky is grey. They are fragrant, often riotously colorful and exist in a climate that admits of no harshness, no jolting changes or unpleasant extremes. And yet, for all their heady sensory stimuli, it is always a soothing experience to enter this warm, humid world where plant life thrives in a perfect, and perfectly controlled, environment.

On Long Island, two greenhouses provide a perfect, controlled environment for other delicate subjects: the developmentally disabled. For people like Sabrina Walker, who falls into that category and has a passion for making things grow, they are also ideal places to get paid for doing exactly what makes them happy. Walker was fortunate 10 years ago to have found herself at the right place at just the right time: approaching Flowerfield Gardens, which is owned and operated in Holtsville by the Association for the Help of Retarded Children (AHRC), as a potential employee. The greenhouse was a brand new venture for AHRC and now Walker, who is 34, is one of its most seasoned employees.

Her father, Ken Walker, who also happens to be president of the board of trustees of AHRC/Suffolk, knows just what a break the new venture represented for his daughter. Had she been born a few years earlier, he said, there would have been pressure to put her in a facility for the mentally retarded, where the opportunities for fulfilling her potential would have been minimal.

"There was a time when parents were encouraged to put children like Sabrina in an institution," he said. Instead, Sabrina is gainfully employed, active socially, and happy. "She loves being outdoors," he said of his daughter. "She is amazing. Ask her anything about plants and she knows the answer. It's a wonderful thing for her."

In residence at one of AHRC's group homes, Sabrina lives with six other clients of the agency, all of whom have different jobs outside the facility but come together in the evening. Unless, of course, they are otherwise engaged. According to her father, "Sabrina is very busy."

Ideas Bloom at G.R.O.W.

Another greenhouse workplace for the developmentally disabled on eastern Long Island is the Greenhouse Recreation Opportunities Workshop (G.R.O.W.), located on the West Sayville Golf Course. Founded by Robin Jacobs in 1991 as a project of the Developmental Disabilities Institute (DDI), it is staffed with older...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT