Roses for Autism has expertly created an amazing organization for a worthy cause. And in the process, its founders rehabbed abandoned greenhouses.
The thriving organization also employs people who have autism; the employees cut and package flowers daily on its 38-acre space.
We caught up with Michelle L. Ouimette, managing director of Ability Beyond and Roses For Autism. She filled us in on how the organization was founded and how it grows so many gorgeous plants.
Organic Authority: Can you tell us about how and when Roses for Autism was founded?
Michelle L. Ouimette: Roses For Autism was founded in 2009 by Ability Beyond, a leading provider of community-based residential and employment services based in Connecticut and New York.
OA: How did the organization's founders come up with and execute this concept?
MO: In 2008, the Pinchbeck family closed their three generation family-owned, commercial, fresh cut flower business, succumbing to foreign competition. A close friend of Tom Pinchbeck, the property owner, has a son on the Autism Spectrum. He expressed concern about his son’s future and what employment opportunities would be available to him. They thought that the farm could be reopened as a non-profit organization that helps support individuals with Autism. Ability Beyond, being a leading provider, got involved in the project and fully sponsored the farm conversion. In addition, they created the employment programs and manage all day-to-day operations of Roses For Autism. Tom Pinchbeck has been retained on a consultant capacity.
OA: Tell us about the training services at Roses for Autism.
MO:Roses For Autism provides a supportive work environment so our interns can have a positive “first job” work experience. Interns work in all areas of the business, from the greenhouse to e-commerce and are mentored by our business staff. Here, interns learn how to work as a team, take direction from a supervisor, be responsible for a job, etc. In addition, we offer community experiences including volunteer opportunities, linkages with local colleges, individualized internships, job seeking skills curriculum, and employment placement.
OA: Tell us about the greenhouses the flowers are grown in.
MO: The greenhouses were constructed in 1929 specifically to grow fresh cut flowers. We grow 10 varieties of roses including our signature fragrant Lavande Rose. We also grow Gerbera daisies and a variety of oriental lilies. In addition, we have an outdoor seasonal garden that grows snapdragons, iris, zinnia, lizianthus, and statis.
We have a team of nine people who work in all areas of the business. This includes three employees with Autism.
OA: How does the organization — and greenhouses — help the town?
MO: In addition to preserving local agriculture, which is a proud tradition in Guilford, Conn., proceeds from the sales of flowers fund programs and scholarships for career training for families who cannot afford these vital services for their children.
OA: Do you have any future plans for the organization?
MO: We are currently focused on the launch of our Ardent Rose perfume which was created from our Lavande Rose.
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Image of roses via Roses for Autism