Challenges in life are inevitable. The joy of living comes from overcoming set obstacles and pushing our own limits towards self-improvement. Our jobs and careers are clear areas in which we are given the opportunity to reach beyond our current abilities and aim for greater. For many of us, our first jobs were the first time we were required to put our best foot forward and work with different personalities. Not only that, working for your own money, makes the value of your time and purposes very apparent. It is a right of passage to get your first job and start the journey of finding your place in society.
Nonprofit Garten’s Roots and Branches
Garten, a non-profit based in Oregon, is helping individuals with disabilities find purpose through community employment. In 1978 founder Sally Gearhart started Garten after noticing that people living with disabilities often lived with the burden of low expectations. Instead of pity, she saw growth potential and decided to name the non-profit Garten, which translates to garden in german. Uncoincidentally, the services provided through Garten are all focused on environmental maintenance. The six business entities that makeup Garten take care of recycling, shredding, landscaping, packaging and assembly, print and mail, and custodial. Alyssa Lockwood, the newly appointed Resources Development Manager explains that through these 6 businesses, Garten hires, trains, and recruits people with disabilities.
In addition to these businesses, Garten provides two additional services. The first is a day center for elderly adults with disabilities that can no longer work. Lockwood notes that the DayBreak facility provides a safe space to enjoy a range of activities including arts and crafts, fun excursions, and volunteer opportunities. It functions like a senior center but caters to those with limited ability.
The second service they have set up is a community employment department that helps people with disabilities find jobs in other local businesses. This service business takes on clients from The Department of Vocational Rehabilitation as well as Oregon’s Disability Determination Services. Lockwood states,
“We have one of our participants working at a local pizza shop and then one of our other participants works with the local basketball team. And it’s his dream job, and it’s just super exciting.”
As with most businesses, COVID had a major impact. Garten’s business and services. The virus and lockdown were an even greater challenge for Garten workers because their disabilities often make them a more vulnerable population. The small but nifty non-profit had to digitize its services almost overnight in order to be able to continue to provide services to program participants. Even while providing online services, the lack of human connection that many confronted during the pandemic was immense. For the Garten employees, this was especially difficult as their jobs brought them immense joy and opportunities to connect with others. Lockwood recounts many touching moments during the lockdown when Garten employees went above and beyond.
“ Some of our employees literally went to clients’ homes so they could interact with them through a window.”
Summer Youth Program
As the pandemic panic fades and lockdown mandates lift, Garten has been busy getting back on its feet. Right now they are working on their annual 6-week-long Summer Youth Program. This event is a community-wide endeavor that allows young people with disabilities to explore different employment opportunities in the community. The participants, ages 17-21, intern at different jobs to pick up helpful work skills. Once they rotate through a couple of different positions they have the opportunity to be placed in the job site of their choosing. The program is heavily supported by local businesses and by volunteers who facilitate the rotations and ensure that the program runs smoothly. Summer jobs among able-bodied youth are pretty common and Garten allows youth with disabilities this same opportunity.
Lockwood recalls one program participant who travels 2 hours a day on a bus to work at the pizza shop.
“She doesn’t have to but she does it because she wants to. She wants to contribute to her community, she wants to work and that’s her passion.”
While some might not see pizza making as a calling, the folks at Garten know that these responsibilities bring a lot of meaning into the lives of their participants. Knowing they are needed and valued is a priceless feeling that the Garten non-profit aims to instill into each of its clients.
While many companies champion inclusivity in the workplace, Garten embodies this value and sets an admirable example for others to follow. We at AnyPromo were touched by the impact that Garten has after hearing about their community lead mission and impact. We will be supporting Garten by donating volunteer shirts for their upcoming Summer Youth Program.
Although Garten is a new client of ours, Alyssa Lockwood has been an AnyPromo fan since 2018 when she used our services in a previous position. We’re proud to support her organization the same way that she’s supported our own.
For more articles like these, check out our last blog on our other nonprofit client United Through Reading. We enjoy highlighting great clients that support their community and using custom marketing materials to promote their causes.