Creative Enterprises is a nonprofit that provides life skills training and employment opportunities to adults with disabilities through educational programs and job placement assistance. “We veered off from just workshops and work-oriented things to teaching classes,” said Leigh McIntosh, Executive Director of Creative Enterprises. “Those classes were determined by what our clients were interested in. Every year, the clients have a plan called the individual service plan. And so whatever their goals are, we work with them on daily living skills, fitness programs, and this kind of work helps with their desire to be productive.”
Part of their program includes a community garden and greenhouse at their headquarters in Lawrenceville. The Creative Enterprises Community Garden functions as a training environment for clients. Beth Arechiga, Greenhouse Administrator, oversees the garden and is amazed at how much her students enjoy playing in the dirt. “They love it,” said Beth. “They are so excited to come out here and learn about the names of flowers, bugs, and butterflies. They love harvesting and giving away the fruits and vegetables.” Creative Enterprises donates most of the food grown in the garden to volunteers, community members, the Lawrenceville Foodbank, and Lettum Eat.
The garden is also home to one of 17 new orchards planted as part of Food Well Alliance’s Orchard Project in partnership with the Giving Grove. After hearing about it from the Gwinnett County Extension, Beth applied for an orchard. “We used to have quite a few Bradford Pear trees, but most of them had to be cut down because they’re invasive. Then we didn’t have any shade or trees, and the clients love berries.” The clients helped plant the trees throughout the garden, including elderberry trees in their hummingbird corner and Jujubes near the entrance. Their orchard also has apple trees, muscadines, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries.
Leigh can’t wait for the plants to mature so they can start giving the fruit away. “One of the things I’ve learned about our clients is that all of their lives, people have been providing services for them, but here they can actually give back and they really like that. It’s fun to see them light up when they’re able to give things to people,” said Leigh.
They also received the Community Garden Grant, which they used to buy gardening tools, fencing for the orchard, and a portable sink to wash produce. “Food Well is an amazing partner,” said Beth. “Without Food Well, we wouldn’t have the infrastructure that we have. They have been a major, major help and a wonderful contributor.”