Reaping what they sow.
It is only appropriate that part of this summer’s Bridges to Transition Program is taking place at Madison Garden Center in West Jefferson.
Now in its fourth year in Madison County, the four-week paid summer employment opportunity program (with a one-week unpaid educational component) for students with developmental disabilities has blossomed more each year.
Once a week, Bobby Higgins and Johnnie Burns have been doing various jobs at Garden Center. Tasks include cleaning the greenhouse, bagging soil and straightening the decorative rocks.
“We don’t like it to look like a big junk yard, (so) they came along at a really good time,” said Becky Ballengee, Madison Garden Center manager. “They have been a big help and they do great work.”
Putting in hard work is not a new thing to either of the young men. Burns is a percussionist in London High School’s superior state-rated marching band, while Higgins has excelled in several Special Olympics sports. They are both served by the Madison County Board of Developmental Disabilities (MCBDD).
“The Madison Garden Center has been incredibly supportive of providing real job experiences for the students,” said Jenn Coleman, MCBDD community inclusion manager. “The students have had a chance to see the Madison Garden Center employees in action and then work side-by-side to accomplish daily tasks.”
To help ensure success, job coaches are provided by Capabilities, Inc. So far, Higgins and Burns have each impressed their coaches.
“The ultimate goal is to gain work experience so they can be community employed,” said Belinda Bockrath, area manager for Capabilities, Inc. “I think they can both get jobs in the community.”
Also once a week, Brett Adkins and John Knapp have a variety of responsibilities at Mom’s Attic, a business in London. Among their jobs are sorting, organizing, and cleaning the items in the store.
“They do whatever the day calls for,” said Chris Allen, who owns the store with his wife, Sissy. Allen said Mom’s Attic inventory is accumulated through drop off, arranging for pick up, or sometimes through the old fashioned bartering system. In other words, sometime people who drop off items can receive some level of store credit.
The family-owned business is happy to help by participating in Bridges. Allen mentioned he has a son who is involved with Special Olympics.
“Everyone needs an opportunity,” Allen said. “It definitely helps us out.”