Flower power for J-ADD residents

Flower power for J-ADD residents

When Meri Pollock, a vice president of the Hackensack-based Jewish Association for Developmental Disabilities, suggested a new project for the group several years ago, she knew it would need some time to take root. Now, with phase one complete, "Flowers by J-ADD" is in full bloom.

"As far as I know, it’s unique," said Pollock, explaining the premise of the project, designed to give jobs to those who use J-ADD’s services. The organization — a non-profit agency serving New Jersey’s special needs community since 1986 — operates nine kosher residential sites for people with developmental disabilities throughout Bergen County and provides family support, education, and in-home respite services to more than 100 families.

J-ADD residents Fred Frolow, Craig Surico, Jeffrey Portnoy, and Ira Barenburg work with two PKW staff members, second and third from left, to arrange flowers for sale. At right, J-ADD vice president and volunteer Meri Pollock.

According to Pollock, the flower project "gives jobs to people who need them at J-ADD and generates income at the same time." The program was developed with guidance from the Entrepreneurial Training Institute of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, a state agency that encourages non-profit agencies to start small businesses.

The first stage of the project, launched in October, involved on-site sales of flower arrangements at the JCC on the Palisades and other locations, including the Jewish Home at Rockleigh. Flowers, already in arrangements, were bought from a wholesaler and distributed each Friday by J-ADD residents.

According to Abbe Greenberg, J-ADD associate director, some 30 bouquets, prepaid, are distributed at the JCC every Friday. The Early Childhood Center at Temple Emeth in Teaneck will also become a regular distribution site, she said.

"We had a special Mother’s Day sale at Temple Emanuel in Closter, and some synagogues have purchased flowers for their bimah," said Pollock. One, she added, asked the group to provide centerpieces for its annual meeting.

The recently launched phase two of the project provides additional skills training for those served by J-ADD. In July, four residents of the group’s facilities took on the job of arranging the flowers themselves.

"They spend three to four hours at the distributor’s [PKW in Englewood]," said Greenberg. Not only are they learning to arrange the flowers, she said, "but they help out by repackaging distressed accessories for sample pieces" —for example, washing and repackaging warped glassware.

According to Greenberg, one of the owners of the business is training the J-ADD workers. "He said they’re terrific and very helpful," she noted, adding that those who purchase the flowers have "raved. They’re very pleased with quality and say that the bouquets last for two weeks."

"The [flower project] has been designed as a business," she said, "and the residents/employees have taken ownership. They are enjoying it and learning job skills such as working with customers, wrapping bouquets, making change, and keeping regular working hours." Those responsible for sales, she said, may work up to six hours in one day. The money collected is used to pay the workers and defray the other costs of the project.

"The workers develop job pride, they’re paid decent wages, and they develop concrete skills," said Greenberg, pointing out that seven J-ADD consumers have been involved with the flower project so far, whether in flower arrangements or sales. Participants "are selected on the basis of interest and ability," she said. "We ask them if they want to participate."

Still, she added, since there is no J-ADD staff person responsible for the flower project, "we couldn’t do it without the help of volunteers from the J-ADD board."

"This is a win-win situation," said Pollock. "People have beautiful flowers on their Shabbat and holiday tables [and it] gives employment to those with developmental disabilities and incorporates them into the community."

Individuals or organizations wishing to order flowers from J-ADD may call (’01) 457-0058 or visit j-add.org. Bouquets range from $10 to $36.

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