By VANESSA MEUIR
There’s a new garden in town that has plants for every season.
Giving Gardens can be found at 4040 S. Bearfield Road, and shoppers will see the kinds of flowers and plants that they’d expect to see at any greenhouse. What makes Giving Gardens unique is its employees. The garden center is owned by Central Missouri Subcontracting Enterprises, which employs people with disabilities.
Bill Regan, a greenhouse consultant, played a large role in starting the Giving Gardens. The idea was to provide hands-on work for employees that would get them out of a warehouse atmosphere.
“Our goal is not just to be on the market, it’s to provide (people with disabilities) with a place to work that they really enjoy,”Regan said.
At any given time, there might be as many as 15 to 20 workers at the greenhouse. Employees are involved in potting, transplanting and watering the plants that they grow themselves in the greenhouses. Regan said he thinks that this type of work is beneficial for people with disabilities.
“They get a lot of satisfaction out of it, I think, and it’s therapeutic for some of them,” Regan said. “Just having a connection with nature and not being on an assembly line situation, but actually being out and working with plants.”
Giving Gardens was built this past winter, and in its first summer open to the public, business has been going well. Although Central Missouri Subcontracting Enterprises receives funds from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as well as the Missouri Department of Mental Health, the majority of its revenue comes from contracting with large companies like 3M and Square D to provide workers. This separates it from other nonprofit organizations that rely on tax dollars for their operations.
“We’ve done pretty well; people have been very interested in what we’re doing because it’s definitely a good cause and a good reason to be in business,” Regan said. “We are attempting to be self-sufficient as a project by selling our stuff to keep our program going and supplying these jobs.”
There is never a shortage of employees at the garden. Central Missouri Subcontractor Enterprises employs 130 people who work in contract manufacturing for big companies like 3M. The garden is able to pull employees from the work floor to come out to the garden and work as their disabilities allow.
“We can pull folks that we think would possibly fit in here, and then we can give them a try and see how they do,” Regan said.
Bruce Young, the director of Central Missouri Subcontracting Enterprises, oversees the indoor workshops of the program as well as the outdoor work happening in the garden center. Young has stuck with the garden project from its beginning and is now able to see the benefit of his hard work.
“We’ve really pushed trying to get the word out about what we are and what we do,” Young said. “We’ve had a lot of repeat customers, so that tells us that we’ve got a good product and we’ve got good service, and those people are probably telling their friends and families, so that’s a great thing.”
For both Young and Regan, being a part of the Giving Gardens program is personally gratifying. Regan is 70 years old, and he has owned his own greenhouse for 40 years.
“Working with these people is the most rewarding, and being able to be back in the business,” Regan said. “I can get back into doing all of the growing, and that’s fun. After I got into it and started working with the folks and clients here, I really found that I like working with them.”