Students with disabilities form staff of new Atco flower shop
WATERFORD — A newly-opened flower shop is an extension of a long-running South Jersey nonprofit's mission to help children and adults with physical and intellectual disabilities prepare for life after school.
Blue Violet Flowers and Gifts opened March 20. It is an effort by Archway Programs to grow floral design and horticultural classes that the organization has offered in-house for close to a decade.
In the last five years, those classes have branched into the surrounding community, and now that community will in turn be served by a standalone shop on White Horse Pike in Atco.
Archway students from teen to adult will comprise the staff at Blue Violet, continuing to provide such services as wedding flowers, and arrangements for other special events.
Kristine Henle-Blank, horticultural instructor with Archway's Career Education Program, said opening the store aligns with the group's main goal of assimilating those with disabilities into adulthood and employment opportunities whenever they complete their education, be that at 18 or 21. Some students were already participating in off-campus structured learning, but this takes it to another level.
"It was due to the success that we've had with our students in that on-campus facility that kind of sparked the idea of reaching out even more into the community with a retail site," Henle-Blank said. "We're going to have students 16 and above working in this flower shop to gain employability skills, and help further them along in their transition."
Blue Violet's social media reachouts have contributed to what Henle-Blank called a tremendous positive response before the shop even unlocked its doors, and that has spilled over into the first week of business.
Blue Violet Flowers and Gifts is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and closed on Sundays.
Patrick Lavery is Senior Producer of Morning News and Special Programming for New Jersey 101.5, and is lead reporter and substitute anchor for "New Jersey's First News." Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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