Middletown, RI – On Saturday and Sunday, November 24 and 25, the Garden Center at The James L. Maher Center will once again be filled with the scent of fresh greenery and the sounds of friends exchanging holiday greetings – heralding the re-launch of the Center as an exciting new catalyst for inclusivity and opportunity.
The Maher Center expects the Garden Center to re-open in 2019 as the home of a collaborative business venture that will create an innovative training mechanism to prepare people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as at risk young adults, military veterans and others, for green economy jobs. It’s all part of a strategic planning process that began after the organization made the difficult decision to close the Garden Center last year.
Rose Morton, executive director and CEO of The Maher Center, “In collaboration with many creative, dedicated partners, we look forward to breathing new life into the Garden Center as the home of a dynamic new enterprise that will advance our mission as a place of opportunity for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”
Planting seeds … and growing opportunity
For several months, a multidisciplinary task force – convened by Sen. Louis DiPalma (D-Middletown) – has been working to envision a meaningful future for the Garden Center property, which encompasses five Maher Center-owned greenhouses on state-owned land on Aquidneck Avenue in Middletown.
The task force consists of DiPalma; Morton; Robert Kalaskowski of the RI Department of Labor & Training, who serves as Chief of Policy and Planning on the Governor’s Workforce Board; Shannon Brawley, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Nursery & Landscape Association; Tracey Cunningham- Martins, Associate Director of Employment for RI Department of Behavioral Health, Development Disabilities and Hospitals; Tina Spears, Consent Decree Coordinator, RI Executive Office of Health & Human Services; Margo Karoff-hunger, Director of Industry Partnerships, CCRI; and other community representatives.
The group is seeking to recruit co-op partnerships, propagators, retail/wholesale producers, innovative hubs, green jobs workforce development training programs, plant researchers, and other innovative businesses and training programs to create a self-sustaining operation based at the Garden Center. The group plans to release an RFI on December 4.
“We’re looking to build a model public-private partnership – one that’s dedicated to advancing inclusivity, building economic opportunity, and enriching lives,” says DiPalma. “It’s a perfect fit for all of the agencies and organizations that have come together around this project and it’s a wonderful new use for The Maher Center’s beloved Garden Center, which has made holiday memories for so many Aquidneck Island families.”
Celebrating the season … and celebrating community
To mark the Garden Center’s renaissance – and in celebration of the holiday season – the Maher Center is opening its greenhouses once again for a very special Pop-Up event.
For one weekend only – on Saturday and Sunday, November 24 and 25, between 9am and 4pm – the community is invited to the Garden Center, located at 906 Aquidneck Avenue in Middletown, to deck the halls all over Aquidneck Island through purchase of hand-decorated wreaths, holiday plants, and gifts.
All Holiday Pop-Up Sale proceeds will benefit The Maher Center’s programs and services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
DiPalma will join an all-volunteer team to staff the event, and community partners will be out in full force to support The Maher Center and deliver holiday cheer. Free coffee, hot chocolate and delicious pastries will be available, through the generosity of Ma’s Donuts.
“The Maher Center is all about building a kinder, more inclusive world, and it’s no coincidence that our Pop-Up sale is happening on Thanksgiving weekend,” says Lynne S. Maher, newly-elected President of The Maher Center’s board of directors. “We are grateful for the support the community has shown to the people we have served over the years – and we are thankful for all who have come together to envision our Garden Center’s future.”