Adults with developmental and physical disabilities find community and purpose at GROWERS, an education and work program at the Edgerton Park greenhouses.
|GROWERS participants are involved in the daily operations of a retail greenhouse. Photo Credit: Matthew Higbee|
For more than three decades, an innovative social enterprise has provided jobs at the historic Edgerton Park Gardens and Greenhouse to adults with autism and other developmental and physical disabilities. Tending plants and helping customers is therapeutic to participants, having the effect of brightening the personalities of individuals with depression and difficult behaviors.
"I'm not a psychologist. I'm a horticulturist. But when people are working with living things and talking to customers who say, 'What a good job you're doing,' it is transformative. Parents and guardians tell me it's unbelievable the changes they've seen in the people who come here," says Scott Hickman, President of GROWERS, Inc. the nonprofit that runs the program.
The Community Foundation helped support the program with a 2022 grant to the Edgerton Park Conservancy for upgrades to the greenhouse heating system. The upgrades were essential to keep plants alive during the winter months.
About two-dozen participants in GROWERS work at the greenhouse and more than 80 renters grow plants in community spaces. Hundreds of visitors of all ages come to the greenhouse throughout the year to shop for plants or as part of educational visits for children.
Edgerton Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and its Sarah T. Crosby Conservatory was restored in the late 1990s with a matching grant from The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.
To learn more about and give to GROWERS, Inc., visit its profile on giveGreater.org