Billy Yoakam has been a teamworker at We Grow Dreams for four years and recently had his first day working at the organization’s newly opened garden market in Naperville.
“Billy enjoys working at We Grow Dreams because of the camaraderie with his friends and the paycheck he earns himself,” his mother said.
We Grow Dreams employs young adults with disabilities, providing them rewarding job opportunities at their greenhouse and at the new garden market. The market, located at Freedom Commons just south of I-88, sells flowers, herbs, and handmade crafts on Saturday mornings.
“There’s a lot of support that we get in Naperville as far as the school system, but once they go out beyond age 22 there is really not a whole lot out there,” Co-Founder Holly Riordan said.
In response to that problem, three Naperville families created We Grow Dreams to provide new opportunities for their own children and other young adults with disabilities. They chose to open a greenhouse business because it was low tech yet labor intensive, which provides employees with several simple tasks.
“It has turned out to be a great business because they can see the fruits of their labor,” says Janet Jarmusz, President of We Grow Dreams. “They can plant a seed and see it grow into a beautiful flower.”
We Grow Dreams earns most of its funds as a wholesaler, and this is the first year their garden market is up and running. They operate their five-acre greenhouse in West Chicago, and since the majority of families participating in the program are from Naperville, they are excited to bring their product back to their community.
Teamworkers run the register, carry flowers to customers’ cars and fold boxes, along with other general duties.
“I like working at We Grow Dreams because it is very nice and very fun,” teamworker Justin Jarmusz said.
During the week at the greenhouse there are volunteer job coaches who teach teamworkers how to plant seeds and tend to the flowers they will sell at the market. There are about 40 teamworkers, each working around 10 hours each month and earning minimum wage.
“Like all of us, they want to feel a sense of accomplishment and want to feel worthwhile,” said Donna Jarmusz.
Customer Pagie Kramer was happy to support a good cause; “There are so many farmers markets in the area, so why not come to this one that is doing a good thing?” she said.
We Grow Dreams garden market will be selling seasonal garden products every Saturday from 9am to 1pm through October. It is located at Freedom Commons off of Diehl Road and the I-88 exit.
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